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Suite Surrender at Olympia Little Theatre

Mike Turner as Otis, Dayna Childs as Claudia McFadden, Shannon Agostinelli as Athena Sinclair, and Austin C. Photo credit: Toni C. Holm

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Suite Surrender, written by Michael McKeever and directed by Toni Holm for Olympia Little Theatre, is a period comedy set in the early 1940s. It is filled with outdated and overused comic bits -- and yet it still manages to elicit quite a few chuckles from the audience.

Two outlandish, imperious movie stars, Athena Sinclair (Shannon Agostinelli) and Claudia McFadden (Dayna Childs) are booked to perform for the same fundraiser even though everyone knows they hate each other. They have even been known to come to blows on stage. The audience and the gossip columnists ate it up.

Now it falls to hotel manager Bernard S. Dunlap (Randall Graham) to make sure the rival divas are never together. They're booked into suites on different floors of the hotel and scheduled to appear on stage at different times. But a mistake is made, and they are both booked in the Presidential Suite. In the oldest comedic trope in the book, the two stars spend two hours missing each other by a hair's breadth as they and Dunlap and a whole host of secretaries, bellboys, a gossip columnist and the society dame who is sponsoring the event are constantly in and out of the suite.

Yes, it is totally predictable. Until a surprise twist at the end caught me completely off guard.

Graham is terrific as the put-upon hotel manager. His barely contained fury and confusion, and his quick coverups as situations change with the blink of an eye (or the appearance and disappearance of red and white roses, and the leaping and tossing of people and dogs off balconies).

I hate characters that are full of themselves who display overblown affectations, and Agostinelli and Childs play such characters so well I had a hard time laughing at them. I wanted to strangle them. I mean, how do you not think actors are hamming it up when they play characters who constantly ham it up? 

Also overacting on purpose is Bonnie Vandver as Mrs. Osgood the society dame benefactor. Her timing and her portrayal of cluelessness is impeccable.

Suite Surrender is a play that offers supporting actors a chance to shine larger than their parts. Such is the case with Katelyn May as Athena's secretary and Austin C. Lang as the bellboy, Francis. They are former flames who never quite made it in show business and ended up in less glamourous lines of work. They are thrown together by accident and their love is immediately rekindled, but they have to pretend they don't know each other. Of all the actors in this play, they are the most natural and loveable.

You might not fall on the floor laughing at Suite Surrender, but you'll come away feeling good.

SUITE SURRENDER, 7:25 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 1:55 p.m., Sunday, through June 24, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia, $11-$15, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., 360.786.9484,

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