'Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks'

Michael: "You have to get used to my sense of humor." Lily: "Do I?" Do worlds collide, or do opposites attract? "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks," now playing at the Camelot Theatre in Talent, is a slick evening of laughter with a sentimental twist.

Lily, a grieving widow, stuck in her Florida cookie-cutter condo, contracts for private, in-home ballroom dance lessons from a local dance studio. Michael, a young, enthusiastic and wildly energetic dancer, arrives to give his first lesson.

She is the widow of a fundamentalist Methodist minister. He is a gay ex-Broadway chorus boy with an attitude. They clash.

Michael: "We just got off on the wrong foot, so to speak."

Lily: "Something tells me you spend all day on that foot."

She is testy. He is obnoxious. She is fading. He is frenetic. She is restrained. He is bawdy. They bicker, they squabble, they spar.

Michael prefaces each lesson with his own saucy but "honest" sociological commentary such as, "The origin of all dancing is sexual, Lily — a socially acceptable way of feeling, smelling, attracting the beloved." Lily bristles.

Their facades crumble as they capably circumnavigate Lily's apartment lesson by lesson. They dance the swing, the tango, the Viennese waltz, the foxtrot, the cha-cha, and "contemporary dance" (the swim, the jerk, the monkey). Through twists, turns, twirls, dips, and jerks, they find that they have certain chemistry, and that first impressions can be disastrous.

Written by Richard Alfieri, who wrote the TV show "Golden Girls," "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks" is infused with droll but insightful dialogue. As Lily and Michael take great pains to break down their stereotypical barriers to truly communicate, they develop a deep and sustaining friendship.

Don Zastoupil's masterfully constructed set, Lily's senior citizen convenience unit, smacks of prefabrication and professional decoration. With its matching built-in puce appliances and a tropical/Asian motif, the condo is comically overstated.

The always adorable Shirley Patton has a flair for caustic banter and proves to be as able bodied on the dance floor as her partner, the young and talented Justin Cowan. Nimbly directed by Douglas Warner and deftly choreographed by Priscilla Quinby, the evening flashes by in a flurry of wry exchanges and slick moves highlighted by the couple silhouetted against a series of brilliant sunsets or the enormous, ever-changing moon.

"Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks" plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Sept. 13 at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. For tickets and information call 535-5250.

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