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Diane Drager of Hector rehearses her role as housekeeper Annie Dankworth in the Peer None Players' production of "The Housekeeper" which opens tonight at the New London Little Theatre. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

'Housekeeper:' Stage production opens tonight in New London

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Penned by James Prideaux and under the direction of local legend Christopher McAninch, "The Housekeeper" opens tonight at the newly renovated Little Theatre in New London.

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Presented by the Peer None Players, this comic valentine in two acts provides just under two hours of laughter and life lessons -- proving yet again that although first impressions are fickle friends, they sure do make for funny theater.

With his late mother barely "cold in her coffin," middle-aged mama's boy Manley Carstairs -- played by the multi-talented Tim Miller of Prinsburg -- decides to take on a housekeeper.

The questionably talented novelist hopes to hire something "young and pretty" to liven things up around his lonely abode while he concentrates wholly on his work ...

Much to his dismay, what he receives instead is none other than one Ms. Annie Dankworth, as played by the darling Diane Draeger of Hector.

Although Annie gives a great interview, it turns out Annie has plenty of interesting antics up her sleeve, and to say she's a bit of a bag lady is an understatement at best.

Upon hire, Annie literally returns with one lone piece of luggage in the form of a paper bag from Christopher & Banks. Adding to her humble hilarity, she shuttles her belongings to and fro with a shopping cart lovingly named Maxine.

Manley soon discovers his new employee is a "veritable cesspool of sham," and attempts to end their agreement after just 3½ days.

Desperate for a paycheck and a place to hang her hat, the title character thinks her employer can't possibly be as mean as he seems, and thus determines to stay on through the remainder of the week -- sans salary -- in hopes of obtaining a glowing letter of reference, if nothing else.

The results are both hysterical and heartwarming at different points throughout the production.

With sidesplitting sass, Annie believes herself to be quite the catch, despite having never been caught. Draeger's effective portrayal of this quirky character is oddly endearing and always interesting.

And as the less than masculine Manley, Miller's physical comedy is outdone only by his flawless theatrical delivery.

Indeed, this show's two-member cast lights up the stage as a seriously cantankerous couple -- an unlikely but strangely dynamic duo.

Designed by McAninch, the stunning set is bedecked with plenty of saturated colors, hearty hardwood, varieties of velveteen, elegant artwork, knick-knack niceties and lots of lace doilies.

Not in recent years has West Central Minnesota seen such witty writing grace the stage. Dynamic dialogue and clever quips highlight Prideaux's superb script. The audience is sure to be kept in stitches from the first scene to the last.

 Jennifer K. Oakes received a bachelor's degree in 2006 from St. Cloud State University, where she studied English and theater. She spent two years working with the Fire Mountain Arts Council and Roxy Theater in Morton, Wash.

Production information

Today through Saturday and Aug. 20-22 at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 23 at 3 p.m., The Little Theatre, 24 Central Ave. E., in New London

Tickets available only by phone orders at 320-354-2559. Leave your name, number of tickets and date desired and your phone number.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for those under 18 and all kids' tickets are two for one. Remaining tickets available at the door one hour prior to performances.

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