“Inga Binga” explores a Pre-Camelot JFK

Julian Wiles, the founder and artistic director of Charleston Stage and author of Inga Binga, brings the young Jack Kennedy to life before our very eyes, with the help of New York stage actor Phil Mills, but more on him later.

Anyone who has ever been remotely intrigued by the dashing, enchanting life and times of JFK will enjoy Inga Binga, playing at the Dock Street Theatre through March 25th.  An original play, based on actual events that happened right here in Charleston, Inga Binga is the story of a weekend tryst between Jack and Inga, a Danish beauty queen who caught the young ensign’s eye in Washington.

Jack has been transferred to Charleston, where fear of German u-boat attacks, spies and sabotage have prompted the locals to install air raid sirens and black out shelters all over the city.  Any one of foreign descent is suspect.  Jack’s amour, the beauty queen to the silver screen Inga Arvad, is just such a one.

We won’t tell you much more of the story, (go see it for yourself!) but it was wildly entertaining.

Highlights:

Phil Mills stars as Jack and Gardner Reed as Inga, both imported from Manhattan for this production.  They were engaging and a refreshing change up in the leads, supported by Charleston Stage vets.  Reed is as lovely as Mills is handsome, and they had excellent chemistry.  Reed’s accent wasn’t quite as consistent as Mills’, but it did not distract from her performance.  She has an amazing ability to showcase both Inga’s vulnerability and bravado, even in the same moments.  Mills swagger and smile seemed so natural, so part of him, that it was hard to believe you weren’t watching the man himself.

Brian J. Porter stars as Lem, Jack’s best friend since prep school.  What. A. Guy.  Porter has played everything from chorus (Chicago, the season opener for Charleston Stage) to star (anyone else remember What If? ProductionsHedwig last year?!), and he positively shins in Inga.  He has the ease of someone who feels so very at home on stage, and it makes his performance fantastic.

Beth Curley and her Hair.  The woman is spot on as Betty, a ballsy reporter after her story.  We loved her scheming, plotting, do-anything-to-get-the-scoop nature, but special mention should also go to the best head of hair on stage in Charleston!  She looks like she’s straight out of a salon commercial.

In summation, this is a worthy night at the theatre, whether you are a JFK enthusiast, want a comedy with a little love too, or a sucker for the inevitability of doomed romance, Inga Binga will satisfy audience members of any age, Yankee or Charlestonian.  Kudos to the entire cast and crew and particularly playwright and director Julian Wiles.

words: Stacy Huggins

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