Port City Playhouse Sister Ignatius Explains it All For You and The Actor’s NightmareBy Don Michael Mendoza • Sep 27th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Port City Playhouse
The Lab at Convergence, Alexandria, VA
Through October 2nd
90 minutes, with one intermission
$18/$16 Seniors and Juniors
Reviewed September 23rd, 2011
The Port City Players’ production of Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You had audience members busting at the sides from a show filled with slapstick, physical comedy. Albeit full of dark humor, Durang’s work brings a sarcastic and absurdist twist to situations that would otherwise be pretty mundane, and the ensemble of these two one acts understood that concept, though only to a certain extent with jokes either missing the punchline, or jokes that receive reaction from the audience too late.
The Actor’s Nightmare presented George Spelvin, played by Ric Anderson, who woke up in a production he did not know he was starring in. The ensemble went about the show as planned, but were stunned that Spelvin had no idea where he was, or what he was supposed to do, which lead to many moments of humor.
Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You was more of an entertaining lecture rather than a story with an obvious plot. Sister Mary, played by Amy Solo, introduced herself at the beginning and explained her take on The Ten Commandments and God’s lessons to the audience with the help of her student Thomas, played excellently by Remy Brettell.
Given the limited resources of the Lab at Convergence, director Shawn g. [sic] Byers did a great job of working with his given circumstances. He kept his blocking simple, which allowed focus to remain on what the actors were saying, especially in Actor’s Nightmare, which is full of references to other famous shows. The set design and tech effects also kept to the simple rather than being anything too complicated for the theatre.
Finally, Byers cultivated the relationships between the characters in both shows with an ensemble that clearly bonded well during the rehearsal process. There really is no room to talk about individual, stand out performances because the two shows rely heavily on an ensemble. It took a cohesive ensemble to communicate the main messages and comedy within each story, and that shined through in this production.
For a night of continuous laughter provided by a unique two-for-one show, then don’t wait to check out the Port City Players before these shows close on October 2nd!
My long love affair with the works of Christopher Durang started as a young college freshman at a small religious affiliated school tucked in the middle of nowhere Ohio. It was this young impressionable mind that first encountered the biting, dark humor that doesn’t just invoke laughter, but challenges the mind. As a closeted gay man raised in the Bible Belt, I had begun to question the religious nature of my upbringing. I didn’t understand how a perfect God could have made me wrong. It was with these thoughts that I first read Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. At the time I related to Diane. I had grown to hate religion that taught me that I was going to hell.
I left university and went to graduate school, where I revisited Sister Mary and The Actor’s Nightmare and decided to direct the two shows as my second year directing project. As I studied the two pieces together, I realized what a dynamic companion piece The Actor’s Nightmare is to Sister Mary. I ended up leaving graduate school before I was able to complete this project.
Fast-forward nine years… I read that Port City Playhouse was going to do Sister Mary Ignatius and The Actor’s Nightmare and realized it was an opportunity to complete the project I was never able to finish. The only problem was, many things had happened to me in those nine years. My perspective had changed. I had come to terms with my spirituality and come to respect and revere the lessons of my upbringing. So I reread the scripts and realized that the message for me had changed but was nonetheless ever strong and powerful. I found that unlike the naïve youth, I didn’t just identify with one character. I found little of myself in all of the characters. Like George, I have felt lost and out of place; like Sister Mary, I have felt that all-consuming righteous indignation; like Diane, I have felt the pain of loss and suffering; and like Gary, I have taken a rocky journey and found a peace that may work for everyone, but works for me… for now.
Photos provided by Port City Playhouse
Actor’s Nightmare Cast:
- George Spelvin: Ric Anderson
- Meg: Larissa Noris
- Sarah Siddons: Amy Solo
- Ellen Terry: Aimee Meher-Homji
- Henry Irving: Jason Wonacott
Sister Mary Cast
- Sister Mary Ignatius: Amy Solo
- Thomas: Remy Brettell
- Gary Sullavan: Jason Wonacott
- Diane Symonds: Aimee Meher-Homji
- Philomena Rostovich: Larissa Norris
- Aloysius Busiccio: Ric Anderson
- Co-Producers: Sisie Poole and Frank Pasqualino
- Director: Shawn g. Byers
- Stage Manager: Sarah Boyd
- Asst. Stage Manager: Rachel Gehring
- Technical Director: Frank Pasqualino
- Asst. Lighting Designer: Jon Poole
- Lighting Crew: Rachel Lau
- Sound Designer: Frank Pasqualino
- Sound Crew: Samantha Poole
- Asst. Set Designer: Jon Poole
- Tech Crew: John Brettell, Mike deBlois, Rupert Kraus, Rachel Lau, John Poole, Sam Poole, Susie Poole, Joe Quinn, Dick Schwab, Cal Whitehurst
- Properties Designer: Marcia Carpentier
- Props Crew: Mary Beth O’Donnell
- Costume Designer: Linda Swann
- Accent Coach: Carol Strachan
- Graphics: Mike O’Sullivan
- Publicity: Cal Whitehurst
- Box Office: Joan Silver
Disclaimer: Port City Playhouse provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7186.
Don Michael Mendoza studied musical theatre and journalism at American University. He's concurrently employed with American University Communications and is the volunteer Theatre Coordinator for BloomBars - a not-for-profit arts center in Columbia Heights - since graduating in 2010. He is also an active actor in the DC/MD/VA region participating in multiple plays and musicals a year.