Photo by R. Todd Fleeman
Photo by R. Todd Fleeman

By Manning Harris

Stage Door Players has a real coup on its hands with its production of the world premiere of Topher Payne’s new holiday comedy “Let Nothing You Dismay,” running through Dec. 20.

Let me say up front that Stage Door has a lot of loyal subscribers, and if you want to see this delightful fast-paced farce with an inspired cast, please do not delay in getting tickets, for the clock is ticking and they will sell out soon.

Playwright Topher Payne, as you may know, has just returned from New York where his play “Perfect Arrangement” was a critical and popular success in an important Off-Broadway theatre. In fact, it’s no stretch to say that much of the Atlanta theatre community is bursting with pride in the homegrown Payne’s local, regional, and national successes and awards.

In “Let Nothing You Dismay” Payne dazzles once again; there are touches of Noel Coward and Mel Brooks and any number of comic wizards that you could name. But mainly it’s Topher Payne.

But he doesn’t do it alone. When the casting call for this show appeared, it wouldn’t surprise me if the question “Are you versatile?” was the first thing asked. Eight actors play 22 parts in roughly two hours running time. Everyone must be a quick-change artist, and we’re talking five seconds in some cases. And this cast delivers, in spades.

An attractive young married couple named Allie (Emily Sams) and Kevin (Ben Silver) are in a hospital waiting room at Christmas awaiting the birth of their first child by a surrogate mother. They have asked their respective families to wait for the announcement of the birth before favoring them with visits. It is instantly apparent that this is a total and complete impossibility.

The families descend, post-haste, eager to share their insights, love, and endless quirks in what becomes a giddy exchange of human foibles, uncalled for food and drinks, and stories by Mr. Yarmowich (Mark Gray). And we’re just getting started. Kevin and Allie have lots of relatives and friends.

In a play in which every actor (except two) plays three different parts, I hope you don’t expect me to give you the various character permutations, for that would be impossible after only one viewing.

What I can do, with pleasure, is name the eight gifted and versatile (remember?) actors who perform for you; and I’ll give you one character she/he plays and a character trait. Ready? Bryan Brendle (plays Rich, who wears a hospital glove); Amanda Cucher (Brianna, the lady in black); Mark Gray (Dr. Tim); Shelly McCook (Charlotte, an earth-hippie mother); Doyle Reynolds (Milford, who loves Red Lobster more than life); Gina Rickicki (Deb from Upstairs; she reads auras).

Finally, the aforementioned couple Allie and Kevin (Emily Sams, Ben Silver), also play the sweet, spacey biological parents, Lizzie and Leonard.

I must let you discover for yourself standout moments, such as Gina Rickiki’s frozen-faced grandmother (she’s had work done); or Amanda Cucher as Allie’s formidable, competitive sister (also a brain surgeon). And there are many more such moments, from all the actors.

Director Shannon Eubanks has her work cut out for her with all the lightning-fast entrances and exits, the five-second wig and costume changes, and also all those complex character permutations I mentioned. She may deserve a medal for valor and stamina.

But the supertruth here is that this wildly inventive comedy is great fun; it also has a heart, gently showing us that families, biological and chosen, are important; and that love and forgiveness are our great cohesive forces, even (or especially) during holidays and political years. Get tickets.

For tickets and information, visit

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.