Ruffled Flourishes: A Novel Play

Sam Houston State University held the World Premiere of a new play, “Ruffled Flourishes” this past Saturday. The production is penned by Peter Roussel, who is currently filling Philip G. Warner Endowed Chair in Mass Communications Department. The play is based on the book that Roussel wrote by the same title in 2009.

The play centers around the tug-and-pull relationship between the press and the presidency. Sox St. Louis, the central character, plays the part of an underappreciated Press Spokesman in the White House. Ruffled Flourishes attempts to depict St. Louis as he maneuvers his way through the treacherous combination of press and the pressure of his position, and it does an admirable job.

The struggle at the center of the story would not have worked if it was not for meticulous performances from both St. Louis and the members of the Press. In particular, Joe Serpa Daniels (St. Louis) and Jeremy Gee (Reporter 1) stood out. While every member of the press maintained careful character and filled the play with sight gags and verbal diversity, these two had a relaxed delivery and innate wit that helped draw in viewers.

In its attempt to depict this sort of rough and tumble relationship, the play makes a couple of slight missteps alongside the careful recreation. The script is chock full of wit and impactful drama, but at times it showed its hand as an adaptation. Jokes landed more in the second act, after the audience was better acquainted with each reporter’s quirks and eccentricities. Certain scenes seemed a bit out of place, including one toward the end where the action stops just as it was building for an aside.

Besides these minor pacing issues, the plot achieved its goal of capturing the hurried feel of Washington life, with all the humor and stress that comes along with it. The crew of “Ruffled Flourishes” deserve a note as well, as they used the Universities Showcase Theatre to it’s fullest potential. Both the lighting and soundtrack helped solidify the scenes and provided seamless transitions, while a creative use of classic photography as backdrops set the stage perfectly.

Director Penny Hasekoester and the heads of design put together a dynamic feeling performance which drew on their actors, stage and scripts strengths. Actors entered from every direction and moved around the space, and lighting highlighted the movements to guide the audience through the viewing experience.

The scenarios depicted draw largely on the real life experience of Roussel, and it comes across that way. The scenarios do not suspend the viewer’s belief; they draw them in with a rare glimpse behind the curtain of the government. The hand crafted narrative gave the performance a hand crafted feel that made for something authentic.

All together the play tried, and succeeded in large part, to capitalize on the raw, flat humor of an important business. “Ruffled Flourishes” does not try for the laugh out loud, over the top humor of traditional comedies, rather the drama settles itself to the job of pairing quick fire dry wit with the real world, and it does so admirable; it had the audience chuckling throughout.

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