Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

My Three Angels
Adobe Theater
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Stephanie's review of Wish Upon a Star: Unauthorized Intimate Reflections with Walt Disney and Rob's review of Peter Pan


Tim Riley, Brian Jackson, Shangreaux Lagrave,
and Doris Hargrave

Photo by George A. Williams
From 1852 to 1953, France maintained a penal colony in French Guiana in South America. There were several prisons, including one on Devil's Island, a rocky outcropping 15 miles off the coast. It became so notorious that the entire penal colony, including on the mainland, took on that name. Apparently, some of the convicts were allowed to leave prison on work release and mingle with the general populace. What happens when three of them do so provides the story for My Three Angels, a 1954 comedy by Sam and Bella Spewack. It's based on a 1952 French play by Alfred Husson called La Cuisine des Anges, and I don't know if that translates to "The Kitchen of the Angels" or "The Food of the Angels." It probably makes sense to the French.

The three "angels" are prisoners who are repairing the roof of the shop/home of the Ducotels, a family forced to leave France for economic reasons and move to Cayenne, the capital of Guiana. Felix Ducotel is running a shop owned by his rich cousin M. Trochard, but he's running it into the ground. He's been way too liberal in extending credit, and nobody seems to be paying him back. If Trochard finds out how much money he is losing, and if the Ducotel daughter doesn't marry Trochard's nephew and only heir, the Ducotels will be unemployed, homeless, and stuck in Guiana. The three convicts come down from the roof, meet the family, and spend the night chez Ducotel. They become the Ducotels' guardian angels by means of one murder, one felicitous death, and a quick forgery.

The play is probably one of the first black comedies. Despite any historical significance it might have in this regard, it probably would have been forgotten by now had there not been a movie based on it called We're No Angels, and the movie would likely be forgotten if it had not starred Humphrey Bogart. If it was good enough for Bogart, it's good enough to revive once in a while.

The play is in that leisurely three-act style of the 1950s, in which the first act is pure exposition and practically nothing happens. The second and third acts at least have some action and a reversal of what I expected to happen with the potential love interest. I don't want to give away any more of what plot there is.

If you can slow yourself down to the Eisenhower era, the play is quite enjoyable. I think it could have been punched up a bit for modern audiences, either by speeding up the dialogue or having the actors speak with French accents a la Inspector Clouseau. But Micah Linford, the director, plays it straight, using American accents, and although it's never boring, it's not as funny as it might have been.

That said, it's a good production overall. A nice set by Thane Kenny that takes into account how colonizers tend to use the architecture they're familiar with in the old country, no matter how inappropriate. You wouldn't know you're in the tropics from seeing the inside of the Ducotel home. It looks like a typical French living room. Likewise with the costumes by Luis Torres. Who in their right mind would wear three-piece suits and elegant dresses when it's 104 degrees out and there's no air conditioning? Colonists in 1910.

The acting carries the show. The actors who play the three convicts all do a fine job, each in his own way. Shangreaux Lagrave performs with the insouciance that Bill Murray made a career out of, and it works perfectly for the role of the con man/embezzler who's the smartest guy in the room. Brian Jackson wears "nutty professor" glasses and waves his arms like puppy dog tails, all over the place, but when he settles down at times, it's sort of touching. Tim Riley, in for murder, looks like he's doing a slow burn most of the time, which gives the show an appropriate touch of menace.

It's nice to see Alan Hudson back on the stage after too long an interval. Doris Hargrave does a good job in the unnecessary role of an old French woman. The always excellent Bridget S. Dunne is stuck in a role that is beneath her talents; she is a perfectly fine Mme. Ducotel, but there's not much there to work with.

Why is this show being done as the Adobe Theater's Christmas offering? Because it takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—but that's almost superfluous. What happens in the play could happen on any two days of the year in Guiana. Still, I'm glad that Micah Linford chose not to do one of the typical Christmas shows. For a break from traditional fare, spend Christmas where it's 104 degrees.

My Three Angels, directed by Micah Linford, is being performed at the Adobe Theater, 9813 Fourth St. NW in Albuquerque (a few blocks north of Alameda). Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2:00. Through December 18, 2016. Info at www.adobetheater.org or 505-898-9222. The running time is about 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission.


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