Hammond and Santen are standouts as the insufferable Alexander Woollcott and the zealous Jane Grant. Woollcott is as charming and endearing as he is maniacal and manipulative. At times he is the generous uncle of the Algonquin group, at other times the despised father figure, and Hammond portrays him with tremendous style. Woollcott's role is so transparently that of the "bad guy," it's up to Hammond's phenomenal voice to add some resonance. Hammond hits a flawless falsetto that complements the temperamental childlike aspect of his character.
Santen's part, on the other hand, is more subtly crafted to reflect the multiple roles an ambitious woman had to play in the male-dominated world of the time. She is a housewife and a reporter, a flirt and a hard-nosed businesswoman. The strength and emotional range of Santen's voice allow her to take on all these roles remarkably well. A prime example comes when Woollcott's meddling pushes Grant over the edge. Santen paces, fumes, hisses, and belts out a reprise of the tune "Say Partner" with uncompromising power.
Sean Grennan and Kathy Santen find humor in music
Book and lyrics by Cheri Coons. Music by Michael Duff. Through September 1. 800-514-3837 or 561-585-3433.
Even with this dynamic cast, At Wit's Endbecomes a bit tedious owing to its long running time (almost three hours). It also is somewhat disappointing to have intriguing characters such as Dorothy Parker and Tallulah Bankhead onstage without really developing them, but Leonardo's choices work well based on the play's premise. We know how it's going to turn out, but the real thrill is watching how these talented actors turn a phrase.