Theatre Mirror Reviews - "It's Only A Play"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"It's Only A Play"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Players fifth show of their 96th season is the Terrance McNally comedy, "It's Only a Play". The show is about the opening night of "The Golden Egg" on Broadway. The wealthy producer, Julia Budder, is throwing a party in her lavish Manhattan townhouse. Downstairs the celebrities are pouring in, but the real action is upstairs where a group of insiders have staked themselves out waiting for the reviews to come in. Included are the excitable author, the brilliant but unstable director ( who courts failure and is devastated when his work is well received), the dope smoking, pill popping leading lady ( who is hoping to revive her career after a string of flop movies) and the playwright's best friend, a gay, egotistical but insecure comic actor who passed up the chance to star in the play only to find out his television series has just been canceled. Also present are a fawning hypercritical drama critic who is secretly a closet playwright, a would be singer/ actor who just arrived from Kansas and is working as a waiter at the party and a hardboiled lady taxi driver who has seen it all many times over and sets these crazy show business people straight about what kind of shows the audience really likes. Director Tom DiMaggio casts the best 8 people in these roles making the show an enjoyable look at the backstage antics of these eccentric theatrical people.

Leading this talented bunch of crazies is Rick Braun as the tres gay actor, James Wicker. He is a hoot in this part of the nasty, catty friend of the author who secretly hates his show but keeps up the pretense of liking it. Rick delivers his one liners with ease and is especially funny when the New York Times critic, Ben Brantley says that Charles Nelson Reilly is a more manly actor than James is. Veteran actress Marcia Layden is the long suffering producer, Julia Budder, who must endure the demands of the director, actors and author. She has to please them all without driving herself crazy. Julia wants to produce plays that don't use four letter words in them and when the character lets one of the four letter words escape her lips, she catches herself, putting her hand over her mouth in horror, winning Marcia much laughter. Marcia does a great job interacting with everyone showing off her strong acting ability while doing so. Rick Concannon is a human dynamo as Peter Austin who is true to life as a whining, nagging author of a play who gets upset when even one word of his script is out of place. His praying scene is hilarious as he forces everyone to join in his prayer about writers, producers, actors and goes on and on. Rick's character gets even more manic as the reviews come in and vows never to write another play but this all changes when someone else tries to steal his thunder and he composes a "new" right on the spot. Patricia Luca is a scream as the over the top, dope smoking actress, Virginia Noyes, who needs this role to make a comeback to the theater. Her swearing is hilarious and she plays the out of control wacky actress with ease.

The depressed, director, Frank Finger who is also a kleptomaniac is played by Mark Gentsch. He can't stand all the praise from the critics and goes to a psychoanalyst to discover why. (Frank sees them as father figures because his father never accepted him.) Mark handles this role of wacky director wonderfully, getting to yell and scream at his fellow actors. Brian Ellsworth plays the nasty critic, Ira Drew who gets a plate of lasagne thrown on him. This critic hates authors but tries to foist a play on these people while trying to explain why he has ripped them apart in his reviews. One of his funniest lines is when he tells them about an actor playing Hamlet, gets booed and has things thrown at him, stops the show and says, "Hey, I didn't write this shit." The harried waiter, Gus P. Head is played by Dave Quinn, a recent Providence College graduate. Gus runs in and out carrying peoples coats, delivering drinks and finally auditions while singing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head". (David has a great singing voice, having seen him play Bud Frump in "How to Succeed" at PC.) He also has a running phone gag with Lauren Bacall and her missing fur coat. Gus is from Kansas and David does a great Southern accent in the role. Last but not least is Sue Bergeron as Emma Bovary, the cabdriver who delivers the NY Times and pearls of wisdom to these crazy theater people. Sue delivers the goods in this energetic role, rounding a this topnotch cast. The beautiful and opulent set is by Elaine Boober and the show runs smoothly due to hard working stage manager, Iain Lawson. So for a fun filled evening at an insiders look at the behind the scenes antics of show biz, be sure to catch, "It's Only a Play".

"It's Only A Play" (14 - 22 May)
THE PLAYERS
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE, RI
1 (401) 273-0590

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