note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
Merrimack Rep favorite director Kyle Fabel and playwright Kolvenbach have successfully worked together on three of the playwright’s other works, building a sound rhythm, pace, and understanding that successfully projects to audiences. So does this experienced cast, composed of Broadway-TV-film star, Jim Ortlieb as veteran actor George, and Broadway-TV-international film star Carol Halstead as his estranged, long-suffering wife-actress partner, Loretta; stage-TV performer Zoe Winters as Frances, their grown-up, mediating daughter and supporting performer; and TV-stage performer Andrew Pastides as Michael, their supporting actor.
The set has a handsome, 3-D main central stage. To avoid confusion as the actors switch from one play to another, onstage, in the two side-wing dressing rooms, they change costumes, (nicely designed by Lara de Brujin) during their performances in a Russian melodrama and 1930s comedy,.
The real drama occurs in those dressing rooms, as Loretta and young Michael (stage left) change costumes, and Michael suddenly kisses Loretta passionately, unaware that George saw them. Although George tells daughter Frances he can’t wait to get divorced after sparring with Loretta for the past 15 years, he becomes angry, seething with jealousy. He shockingly bursts onto the stage, ad libs his ire, dripping with sarcasm, and shoots Michael dead - or so they think.
In the second act, the slapstick chaos that follows, with the group’s show-must-go-on demeanor and George’s revealing his true feelings about Loretta - that he can’t get along without her - are voyeuristic fun. Ortlieb plays his role(s) to the hilt, his facial expressions and body language infectious. Pastides is also fun to watch, and Halstead and Winters are ideal second bananas for their antics.
BOX INFO: World premiere of two-act comedy by John Kolvenbach, appearing through Dec. 23 with Merrimack Repertory Company, 50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell. Tickets start at $20,senior, student, group discounts. Showtimes: Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, at 2 p.m.; post-show forum, Dec. 20. Call the Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit MRT.org.