Comedy by the book at Rainbow By Larry Alexander, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Kettleman's Book Emporium is a unique type of bookstore: It sells books. No e-books, no Nooks, no Kindles--just books.
Mired in the old ways, it is struggling against the large chain stores. That's why the owners, Henry Kettleman (Joe Winters) and his wife, Frannie (Sherry Konjura), are pinning all their hopes on a celebrity book signing. If it succeeds, all will be well. If not, the store is history.
What happens in the process of getting to that point is all "Fun Between the Covers," the warmly funny comedy now on stage at Rainbow Dinner Theatre.
The show opens with the Kettlemans preparing for the big day. Their guest is Portia St. Goode (played by Casey Allyn), queen of the health-food book writers.
Frannie swoons over the promotional cardboard cutout of St. Goode as a bobby-soxer would have over a Pat Boone poster. She even insists on spoon-feeding poor Henry "Portia's Elixir, the perfect body fixer."
Henry, when not gagging down Portia's swill or rolling his eyes at Frannie's groupielike behavior, anticipates a big day as he watches the crowd grow outside the store.
He knows a big day is imperative, especially after a visit to the store by the insufferable J. Norman Barnstead (Bradley "Bing" Ingersoll), the local financier who holds a mortgage on the store. He'd love nothing better than to see the shop go under, paving the way for him to raze the old building and replace it with a modern shopping arcade.
But while the building is old, it is lovingly maintained by Ozzie Longworth (John DeLancey), a crotchety old geezer whose father built the place around 1920, and who operated a secret still in it during Prohibition, cranking out some of the era's finest bootleg hooch.
Charged with crowd control is the wildly inept Dwayne B. Hinkle (the role is shared by Jimmy "2 Step" Cosentino and Chris Babcock), who is to the town's police force what Inspector Clouseau is to the French Surete.
As St. Goode arrives, her personal gofer, Eddie Parker (Jon Erkert), reminds the Kettlemans that St. Goode is an eccentric who is never, ever, photographed without her large floppy hat and sunglasses.
As things develop, this quirk proves to be the kind of photo-op for which supermarket tabloids would pay big bucks.
The lure of a large payday draws news reporter Carrie Crandall (Rachel Blauberg) to the bookstore, camera in hand, and dressed as a St. Goode wanna-be. Her plan is to grab a picture of the mysterious writer hatless, sunglasses-less.
As the comedy kicks into high gear, confusion reigns, sparked partly by the fact that Frannie, Carrie and even Henry dress up to look like St. Goode, and partly because the punch gets accidentally spiked by bootleg liquor, which Ozzie is still brewing in his father's cleverly hidden still.
Perhaps it is fitting that, since DeLancey is also the author, the show's funniest moments involve Ozzie.
DeLancey has proven in past shows -- just as he does again here -- that he is the Tim Conway of the dinner theater circuit when it comes to playing a shuffling, slightly senile, little old man.
Indeed, Ozzie wrestling with Mabel, the bookstore's equally old, equally cantankerous furnace, is among the show's funniest moments, especially as Mabel moans, groans, clangs and shoots geysers of steam out of her vent pipes.
The play features an elaborate two-level set, reminiscent of an old-fashioned bookstore. The second floor book stacks, for example, are accessible by elevator or an iron, spiral staircase.
As its title suggests, "Fun Between the Covers" is a lot of fun. True, it has very few knee-slapping guffaws, but it is delightfully entertaining and will leave you smiling.
"Fun Between the Covers" runs through May 25 at Rainbow Dinner Theatre, with matinee and evening shows. Tickets cost $42 to $50. For more information, call 800-292-4301 or visit rainbowdinnertheatre.com.