'JFK & Inga Binga' Enchanting & Intriguing At Dock Street Theatre
Charleston Stage Cast & Crew Breath Theatrical Life Into Julian Wile's Farcical Production
Jeff Walker, Entertainment Review
Could a dashing and debonair military officer be compromising American secrets during WWII with his irrational dalliance. From the creative mind of Charleston Stage founding member and Artistic Director Julian Wiles comes a compelling story wrapped around short term romance and international intrigue.
Loosely based on actual FBI accounts circa 1942, 'JFK & Inga Binga' is a delightful and farcical story involving a young John F. Kennedy enjoying a long weekend tryst in Charleston SC with a former Miss Denmark, who may or may not be a Nazi spy. However, history has taught us that JFK had an eye for lovely ladies, especially blondes.
Is the encounter mutual or does Ms. Arvad have an ulterior motive. With the FBI listening in from a hidden closet and observing through a two way mirror will the future president reveal more than he's propositioned for. This production is enchanting from start to finish.
When this stage play was first introduced to audiences back in 2012 it received rave reviews, and a decade plus later under the direction of Mr. Wiles 'JFK & Inga Binga' is just as entertaining. Using a familiar baseball term, the cast and the crew at Charleston Stage knock this production out of the park. Absolutely two enjoyable hours at the theatre.
Resident Charleston Stage actors Eliza Knode and Raymond Cronley are superb taking on the title characters. Fresh off her role as the beguiling Morticia Addams in 'The Addams Family' Knode brings a vivacious yet captivating appeal to Inga, portraying her both sophisticated and naive at the same time. Perhaps the ideal disguise for a supposed intelligence agent. Ooh la-la!
Cronley is equally convincing as the 24 year old JFK, portraying young Jack as confident, brash, and somewhat entitled. Knode and Cronley play wonderfully off one another and totally immerse themselves in their respective characters, especially in regards to Boston and Scandinavian accents. Bravo!
The remaining ensemble twosomes are uniformly entertaining and perfectly paired. Michael Locklair and Anthony Matrejek are superb respectively as Hank the veteran FBI agent and Skip the fresh-faced rookie assigned to keeps tab on the couple. Just as endearing are Liz Duren as determined scoop reporter Betty Rollins, and K'Nique Eichelberger as Betty's youthful yet nervous flash photographer Freddy.
Further theatrical admiration goes to Cedar Valdez as Jack's longtime friend Lem, who comes along for the ride to disguise JFK's clandestine meeting. Valdez delivers his lines with a bit of affectionate irreverence. College of Charleston junior Luke Shaw steps nicely into the giddy shoes of 19 year old Bud, the hotel attendant who's caught the eye of Lem. Their playfulness is priceless, as is Chad Estel's, the special agent in charge.
Just as compelling as the overall cast, the set designers deserve equal praise for turning the Dock Street Theatre stage into a luxurious suite at the Francis Marion Hotel during the mid 20th century. The opulence to detail is remarkable. Kudos as well for the front page Post & Courier headline news curtain reminding the audience of the real threat of war while JFK and Inga are frolicking in beautiful Charleston.
Questions abound for theatre goers. Was Inga working for the Germans? Did she bed Adolf Hitler? Was young Jack smitten enough to believe Inga was the one? Did J. Edgar prefer dressing up like the ladies, all the while keeping a laundry list of taboos on those in power? Some of those queries may or may not be answered.
In the playbill Wiles admits he's tweaked the stage production a bit since he first presented it. Safe to say he no doubt perfected it. Certainly Wiles has taking theatrical license. He's injected a few double entendres and an ample amount of absurdity surrounding real life events.
The playbill further suggests Julian will retire in April after 45 years at Charleston Stage. If 'JFK & Inga Binga' is one of his last casting calls and final curtains, than Mr. Wiles has bookended an illustrious career filled with dedication to his craft, all the while thoroughly entertaining audiences at Dock Street.
'JFK & Inga Binga' plays weekends (Thurs-Sun) through February 26th. Nightly performances at 7:30pm with Sunday matinees at 2pm. https://charlestonstage.com/shows-and-tickets/jfk-and-inga-binga