Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Play It Again, Sam"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Newport Playhouse's current show is "Play It Again, Sam", a 1969 play written by Woody Allen. It is about a recently divorced film magazine writer, Allan Felix, who is trying to restart his romantic life. He is bookish and insecure. During the course of the play, he continually seeks advice from the ghost of his idol, Humphrey Bogart. Bogey comes to the rescue with a fantastic bevy of beauties played out in hilarious fantasy sequences. Allan is so awkward that even Bogart's patience is tried, but eventually decides to be himself rather than imitating Bogart. To thine own self be true! His best friend, Dick and his wife, Linda try to set Allan up on several dates with varying results. It seems Allan and Linda have a lot in common with each other while Dick is always busy letting his service know what phone number is best for them to reach him. Throw in the ex-wife, Nancy who has some funny, caustic lines that liven up the proceedings and you have the ingredients for this well written, well directed and well acted madcap, comedy. Director Ralph Stokes picks topnotch performers for these roles and surrounds himself with a terrific tech staff to please the enthusiastic audience members all night long.

Ralph infuses the show with a lot of energy and gives his cast some clever comic shenanigans to perform. The one liners are splendid, leading the crowd into gales of laughter. Leading this cast in the huge role of Allan Felix is Graham Stokes. As Allan, Graham hardly ever leaves the stage. He wears comical glasses and dresses like a neurotic nerd. Some of his comic lines include sucking on the cotton in the aspirin bottle, quoting from the back of a record jacket, seeking a woman with a big bust and the laugh out loud fantasy sequences that have to be seen to be believed. Graham's interactions with his cast mates are fantastic, too. Philip Clarke shines as Bogey. He spouts advice on how to handle women by slapping them or slugging them with a 45. One of his funniest moments occurs when he keeps telling Allen when to kiss one of his dates. Philip wears a trench coat and fedora pulled over his eyes, creating a picture perfect Humphrey Bogart.

Another stellar performer is Christian O'Brien as Dick. He is always on the phone, making real estate deals. He comically explains he bought 98 acres of quicksand and many lots of radioactive land. Christian creates a three dimensional character and delivers the goods especially in the three fantasy sequences with Graham when he pretends he's having an affair with another woman, pretends he's leaving Linda and in the last one storms in as an irate Italian husband, cursing in Italian while brandishing a huge knife. Although this is Christian's debut at Newport Playhouse, he is a well seasoned performer, having done shows in New York City. I last reviewed him in "A Christmas Carol" at the Granite Theatre back in 2001. Rachel Hanauer does a topnotch job as Linda, They try to fix Allan up with various girls. Rachel is properly sympathetic to Allan's plight and gets caught up in several escapades that are hilarious. Saying too much will spoil the surprise twists for the audience. Allan's wife moved out of the apartment weeks ago but keeps popping in and out in fantasy sequences. Colette Schoweri shines as Nancy, the sexy, blonde bombshell ex-wife. Her comic caustic lines to Allan are hysterical especially after she insults him and then says don't take it personal. Her description of her new blond lover is a hoot as is when she shoots someone with a gun but Nancy finally gets her comeuppance at the end of the show. Rounding out the cast in the roles of the fantasy women are Tonya Killavey and Olivia Sahlin. Their many costumes changes and character changes are brilliantly handled especially Sharon who made a movie called "Gang Bang", a snooty, dancing girl and a fawning student to name a few. When Olivia isn't performing as Linda, she and Mario Sasso handle the stage manager duties with the many lighting changes and sound effects for the show. Tonya and Fred Davison designed and built the 1960's apartment set with Marilyn Monroe, Casablanca and Audrey Hepburn posters decorating it. So for a comic romp of a show with some life lessons to be learned, an all you can eat buffet before the show and a fun filled cabaret after it with some patriotic songs and an excellent tap dance by Angie Bradford. Run do not walk to the box office to catch "Play It Again, Sam" before time runs out. And yes that line is in the show~ Tell them Tony sent you.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM (19 May to 29 June)
Newport Playhouse, 102 Connell Highway, Newport, RI
1(401)848-7529 or www.newportplayhouse.com




THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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