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Theater review: Cast takes audience on a wild ride in Civics’ ‘Cactus Flower’

As the lights go up on Spokane Civic Theatre’s “Cactus Flower,” “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees plays.

The audience is presented with a small apartment, decorated with brightly painted walls and posters for acts like the Byrds and Donovan.

It has all the makings of an upbeat scene until you look stage left and see a young woman, Toni Simmons (Phletha Wynn), passed out on her bed and the oven door wide open.

After her neighbor, the young aspiring writer Igor Sullivan (Seth Rohrenbach) breaks in and revives her, we learn that she tried to kill herself after her older, married lover, Dr. Julian Winston (Dave Rideout), canceled a date.

Things escalate from there, so much so in fact that at times neither the characters nor those in the audience know fact from fiction.

The core quartet of Wynn, Rohrenbach, Rideout and Jennifer Miles as Winston’s assistant, Stephanie Dickinson, carry the show.

Wynn brought just the right amount of youthful energy to Simmons and wonderfully illustrated the character’s transformation throughout the course of the play, and Rideout was a great leading man, easily getting the audience to root for him, even when he lied to, well, most of the characters at one point or another.

Miles was fantastic as the no-nonsense Dickinson and did a lovely job herself of showing how the character blossomed over time. Rohrenbach was sweet as the caring Sullivan and had great chemistry with both Wynn and Miles, especially during the dancing scenes.

Smaller characters add a lot of humor to the show as well.

Audrey Overstreet was hilarious as the saucy Mrs. Dixon Durant, who was more concerned with trying to seduce Winston and her hair appointment than taking care of her teeth, and Billy Hultquist was great as Winston’s patient and friend, the slightly sleazy Harvey Greenfield.

Kaylan Martin brought a lot of humor to the nightclub scenes as a waiter, unabashedly helping himself to the drinks and cigarettes the couples left on their tables, and Taylor Olmstead as Botticelli Springtime was great admonishing the two couples as “Rotten! Rotten!”

Last but not least, Nate Edmons balanced Senor Arturo Sanchez’s bravado with the ladies and fear with the dentist well.

Civic has a real strength in costume designer Summer Berry and scenic and lighting designer David Baker, who expertly set the play’s 1960s scene with some retro florals and high-waisted pants here, sunburst decor and wood paneling there.

A great soundtrack, featuring the Who’s “My Generation,” Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and more, added to the setting and complemented each scene, though the music sometimes carried over from the set changes into the scenes a little too much, making it hard to hear the very beginning of the dialogue.

All in all, this Abe Burrows farce, which is directed by Jessica Loomer and assistant directed by Dominick Betts, is a wild ride all in the name of love, one the cast and crew handles with ease.


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