Providence Players Play On!By Michael Clark • Jun 2nd, 2011 • Category: Reviews
James Lee Community Center Theater, Falls Church, VA
Through June 11th
2:10 with one intermission
$18/$15 Seniors and Students
Reviewed May 27th, 2011
Imagine you’re running a community theater. Budgets are tight, and one of your members grants you permission to put on one of her plays, royalty-free. Of course, you’d jump at the chance. It’s too bad the play isn’t quite finished yet. But that’s ok, after all, it’s still three days until the dress rehearsal. That is the basic premise behind Rick Abbott’s 1980 comedy Play On!. Act I is a rehearsal of the dreadful show, Act II is the near disastrous dress rehearsal, and the final act is the actual performance in which anything that can go wrong does.
Despite its similarities to the better known Michael Frayn comedy Noises Off, Play On! was a very funny show, with only a few missteps (once literally when an actor tripped on the stairs) as the action gets repetitive the third or fourth time you’ve seen the scene. And that’s one of the tricks with this style of humor. The actors (playing actors) have to remember which mistake they have to make with the scene. Lines are duplicated, and occasionally nearly duplicated, and that makes for a fun time.
Matt Ames as director Gerry Dunbar was frantic, and at times wishy-washy as Ames realized the show was probably going to fall apart. The crew, Aggie Manville (Lindsay Williams) and Louise Peary (Chelsey Megli) were trying to help, but despite their best efforts weren’t able to be in two places at once. Crazy playwright Phyllis Montague (Cheryl Sinsabuagh) was absolutely believable as the innocent playwright who rewrote the play such that the cast could learn two new scenes in three days.
The ensemble cast demonstrated through their struggles that they could stay in character, even as it appeared that the play was going to fall apart. Between romantic entanglements, new lines, costume problems, and a fussy director, they were all able to make the audience believe they were really trying to do a good job with the material they had to work with. Playing in a play within a play can be tricky, and Director Beth Hughes-Brown was successful in getting her cast to learn which of their two characters they were at any one point.
The Set and other technical elements were right for a struggling theatre troupe (the one in the play, not the Providence Players). If anything, it was probably a struggle to have the set look as crooked and “not quite finished” as it did. There was one minor problem, as there was not an intermission after the first act. The house lights came up after the grand drape closed, so audience members stood up and started toward the lobby. Then the play continued, which caused a bit of confusion. The real intermission was actually after the second act.
Even with a few drawn out scenes which lacked humor, the Providence Players’ production of Play On! was hilarious, and well worth the price of admission.
Many questions to which there are few reasonable responses…
So I’m lucky. I was born Irish; we have these senses of humor that defy rationality. My own family’s collective sense of humor puts most Irishmen to shame.
This makes me wonder about this wacky guy, Rick Abbot, the author of this play. (He easily tops me in all things humorous.) What made him tick? This very light comedy is beautifully crafted, has characters that are multi-dimensional, and thoroughly explores all the things that can go wrong in a community theater that is down on its luck. It’s effortlessly clever. It’s also a stitch. What made this guy tick? At what point in his life did he know how overwhelmingly he could make people laugh out loud?
While we’re on the subject, what about the similarly wacky Patrick, Beth, Craig, Matt, and all the other actors who must truly be a little nuts to be able to do what they do in this show?
When did they pick up the knowledge that they could make your sides hurt from laughing? What went terribly wrong in their childhoods?
These are connundra.
As the director of this how, I have a warning fr you, the audience member. Please take this advise seriously. It’s important. You may want to visit the rest room before the show commences. Just a thought.
- Aggie Manville: Lindsay Williams
- Gerry Dunbar: Matt Ames
- Henry Benish (Lord Dudley): Patrick David
- Polly Benish (Lady Margaret): Beth Giles-Whitehead
- Marla “Smitty” Smith (Doris, the maid): Amanda Ranowsky
- Saul Watson (Doctor Rex Forbes): Craig Geoffrion
- Billy Carewe (Stephen Sellers: Will McLeod
- Violet Imbry (Diana Lassiter) Katie Brown
- Louise Peary: Chelsey Megli
- Phyllis Montague: Cheryl Sinsabaugh
- Maggie: Smitty Connolly
- Director: Beth Hughes-Brown
- Special Assistant to the Director: A. Donis Godneaux
- Producer: Smitty Connolly
- Technical Director: Jimmy Gertzog
- Lighting Design: Ryan Logue
- Technical Crew: Mary Goss and Sarah Mournigham
- Stage Manager: Elizabeth Stone
- Stage Crew: Christopher Schwartz and Tim Brown
- Assistant Stage Manager: Robbie Snow
- Set Special Effects Designer: Chip Gertzog
- Set Construction: Dave Schwartz
- Set Construction Crew: Matt Ames, Tim Brown, John Coscia, Patrick David, Joe Gargiulo, Craig Geoffriion, Chip Gertzog, Jimmy Gertzog, Kevin Harnisch, Robbie Snow, David Whitehead, Lindsay Williams
- Set Decoration: Ingrid Helvig David
- Set Painting: Kate Smith-Morse
- Properties: Cindy Paska
- Costume and Hair Design: Robbie Snow
- House Management: Mike Daze
- Playbill Design: Ellen Burns
- Playbill Advertising: Jayne Victor
- Photographer: Chip Gertzog
- Publicity: Chip Gertzog
Disclaimer: Providence Players provided one complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review. The Providence Players web site and one of the actor’s web sites were designed and hosted by Mike Clark, which did not affect this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/6884.