Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Random Caruso"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"The Random Caruso"

by Andrew Clarke
Directed by Joe Antoun

Scenic Design by Kathryn Kawecki
Costume Design by hristian Svenson
Lighting Design by Kristin Hayes
Sound Design by Rick Brenner
Prop Master Tony Britton
Stage Combat Tracy Oliverio
Assistant Stage Manager Charlotte Ringle
Stage Manager Brittany Burke

Harvey......Robert Pemberton
Tom........Michael F. Walker
Decca.........Tracy Oliverio
Tobias..........John Porrell
Frizer..........Sean Garahan
Poley........Steve Rossignol
Skeres..............Jon Ryan

There is a serious reason why theater here in Boston has a friendly, generous, collegial atmosphere: there is little at stake here. Those who seek the bubble reputation in Broadway's or Hollywood's mouths enter an unsteady war-zone in which even the most casual encounter --- a plate of breakfast pancakes --- can start or ruin a career, and where fame and money bargain with one another for better billing. Andrew Clarke's play --- its title "The Random Caruso" refers to an irrelevent pot-boiler movie --- is set in Hollywood, where everything and everyone is up for sale or barter and overinflated self-infatuated egos crush lives on a whim. It's a comedy --- thank Thespis!

Every year, for twelve seasons now, Joe Antoun (who Is CentAstage) has shaped and sandpapered a new script by a Massachusetts writer into finished production. Unlike other local theater companies who dabble in "workshops" and "development" CentAstage is what Joe does, and his work is both invisible and astonishing. The cast he's assembled for "Caruso" includes Robert Pemberton and Michael F. Walker sparring and jabbing as a "high-maintenance" star and his paid-to-do-stuff Mosca; John Porrell as a producer who knows he is God; and Tracy Oliverio as a waitress-actress willing to dicker details. Their scenes together crackle with put-downs and confrontations so swiftly-timed and studded with "recognitions" of outrageous egotism that the laughter has to scamper to keep up. Then, to prove this pompous actor actually has a talent to sell, Playwright Clarke has him play the death of Christopher Marlowe in a film with parts taken by Sean Garahan, Steve Rossignol and Jon Ryan --- three young actors who, in Kristin Hayes' dimly-lit changes of Tony Britton's furniture on Kathryn Kawecki's black-and-white-and glass set, mime swiftly impersonal studio roustabouts handling "the talent" as so much irrelevant cattle.

CentAstage is self-described as "... a performance group dedicated to the devlopment and production of new works by Massachusetts writers" and this is how Joe does it: by making raw scripts (this show was a one-act a year ago) into finished plays. And maybe, in a better-run universe, CentAstage would be mentioned in the same breath with The Humana Festival and Sundance. Then again, he lives and works here in Boston, where nothing's at stake --- right?


"The Random Caruso" (20 February - 7 March)
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide