Arts & Entertainment

Big Cast Brings Crowd into ’20s for Heartwarming ‘Dozen’

cheaperdress6If “Cheaper by the Dozen” was not already a well-known American play, it might seem pretty confusing to modern audiences. In a local staging by the McLean Community Players, which opened last weekend, Frank Gilbreth Sr., (played by Bill Mullins) is a man who appears to have signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and tells his wife, collaborator and balancing-force Lillian (played by Roberta Chaves) on their wedding day that she is going to give him a large number of children and that he is going to apply the same principles of industrial efficiency that he sells to factories. Raising their children at home in this manner allows them to have them excel at skipping grades, running into a living room quickly and learning foreign languages in the bathroom.

cheaperdress6

(Photo: Traci J. Brooks)

If “Cheaper by the Dozen” was not already a well-known American play, it might seem pretty confusing to modern audiences.

In a local staging by the McLean Community Players, which opened last weekend, Frank Gilbreth Sr., (played by Bill Mullins) is a man who appears to have signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder and tells his wife, collaborator and balancing-force Lillian (played by Roberta Chaves) on their wedding day that she is going to give him a large number of children and that he is going to apply the same principles of industrial efficiency that he sells to factories. Raising their children at home in this manner allows them to have them excel at skipping grades, running into a living room quickly and learning foreign languages in the bathroom.

In addition to pumping out children, the family democracy that the father sets up is ignored completely when the children make proposals that he does not agree with.

But while it may seem like a depressing Orwellian saga when heavily analyzed, “Cheaper by the Dozen” is in fact a light hearted tale of a father trying to wrap his head around his eldest teenage daughter, Anne, played by Jessica Campbell. Her desires to go on dates, listen to jazz and, most shockingly, switch from cotton to silk stockings initially terrifies her father, who is on the eve of a business trip to London. But with love, respect and determination, he is eventually brought into the 20th century.

Director Adriana Hardy leads the eclectic cast of the McLean Community Players in recreating the design and feel of a Montclair, New Jersey, home in the 1920s. The play itself only features nine of the 12 Gilberth children and is narrated by Frank Jr., played by Jude Rodriguez, and Ernestine, played by Catherine LaValley, characters who in real life wrote the “Cheaper by the Dozen” novel about life with their father that was later adapted into the play.

While most of the rest of the cast consists of various Gilberth children, the bit parts of the Irish maid, Mrs. Fitgerald, played by Carol Watson, and prissy school official Miss Brill, played by Tracy Coffey, add further depth to a story that could have been easily written to just show the antics between a father and his numerous children. The addition of a live dog to the cast, while not necessary, added a nice touch to the overall production value.

“Cheaper by the Dozen” runs through May 14 at the McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $13 – $15, and group rates are available. For more information, call 703-790-9223 or visit the Alden’s website at www.mcleancenter.org/alden/box-office.asp.