Review: BARE (Stage Door Fine Arts at Stage 773)

Wobbly cast exudes energy and potential

 

 Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

   
Stage Door Fine Arts presents
   
Bare
   
Book/Lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr.
Book/Music by
Damon Intrabartolo
Directed by
Paula Taylor and Don Smith
at
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont  (map)
through August 8  |  tickets: $20  |  more info

reviewed by Allegra Gallian

Bare, formerly known as “Bare: A Pop Opera, is a teen rock musical by Jon Hartmere Jr. and Damon Intrabartolo, with lyrics by Hartmere and music by Intrabartolo. The show debuted in October 2000 at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles, where it quickly developed a cult following. As Playbill put it, “fans….cheered [Bare] as being an heir to Rent in style and passion.”

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 The only connection to Rent seen in this show, however, is through its stage design. A minimal set with two spiral staircases connecting scaffolding and two sets of lockers, the stage is reminiscent of Rent’s bare bones, warehouse feel. The set is kept dark in all black paint, allowing for audience imagination.

Stage Door Fine Arts’ production of Bare at Stage 773 (formerly known as Theatre Building Chicago) proved problematic from the start. The show started late and was plagued by technical difficulties. Even after a sound check, there were evident problems with the sound equipment. A balance was never really struck between the actors’ voices and their microphones, so for the majority of the show it was near impossible to hear, and therefore understand, what the actors were saying or singing. The microphones also added a tinny quality to their projections, altering the actor’s voices and ultimately hurting their performances.

Bare follows the students of St. Cecelia’s Catholic boarding school as they enter into their senior year. The two main characters, roommates Jason (Sean Doherty) and Peter (Anthony Avino) are harboring a secret that goes against everything they know: they are in a relationship. Problems arise when Peter wants to take their relationship out of the closet and Jason is firmly against that happening.

Avino’s Peter appears nervous in the beginning and slightly unsure of himself. Eventually he calms down, but strains to get through many of his songs. The range of the part seems a little too large and when he goes too low or up into his falsetto, his voice becomes shaky. His middle voice proves to be a strong tenor and in this range he hits some really strong notes.

Doherty is more believable in his characterization of Jason, having a greater grasp on understanding his character. However, he is stiff in his performance and often seems unsure of what to do with his hands aside from leave them hanging. His redeeming quality is his outstanding singing voice.

The students of St. Cecelia are all auditioning for the spring production of Romeo and Juliet. Peter is cast as Mercutio, Jason as Romeo, Jason and Peter’s friend Ivy (Madison Moran) as Juliet and Jason’s twin sister Nadia (Nellie Conboy) as Juliet’s nurse.

 

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

For all this show’s problems, there were certainly points of merit and potential for what Bare could be. Conboy offers a wonderfully bitter and hilarious portrayal of a teenage girl facing the fact that she’s the odd ball in school. She delivers entertaining, punchy numbers like “Plain Jane Fat Ass” and “Spring” with a clear sense of who her character is, and this allows her to genuinely connect with the audience.

Another standout performance is that of Claire (Anne Pallotti), Peter’s mom. She’s quick and clever, delivering a heartfelt performance of a woman coming to terms with her son’s newfound sexuality. In “Warning,” she delivers an honest look at herself, her son and her life, letting down her walls to let the audience in.

After auditions, the cast throws a surprise birthday party for Ivy. Ivy wants Jason, and she makes this known at birthday party. From that point on she makes it her mission to pursue Jason until she wins him over. Madison Moran’s Ivy feels forced until almost the very end of the show. Moran comes across as an actor playing a part, and she’d benefit from a deeper comprehension of her character to really flesh it out. Not until she serves up the emotionally-driven, belted-out “All Grown Up” does the audience finally catch a glimpse of the real Ivy, and while it’s a welcome change of pace, it would be much more convincing having this authenticity throughout.

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010 Act II proves to be more solid, with increased audience connection bridging the fourth wall. We see Peter and Jason continue to struggle with their relationship in terms of each other, in terms of their religion and in terms of facing the world. Added to that is Ivy and the problems she and Jason have created together. And overall the performances become slightly more realistic, and the sense of watching a play fades back.

When learning of this musical, I was intrigued, and my interest might have been piqued save for the numerous problems the cast faced. As a whole, Bare is missing the kind of guidance needed to improve matters, as actors seem unsure of what to do with themselves, their arms as stiff as their bodies. The requisite enunciation and diction never fully comes to fruition, resulting in jumbled lyrics that are hard to understand, leaving the audience confused as to what’s exactly occurring on stage. The cast is mainly comprised of high school students or recent graduates. Unfortunately their age and lack of professional experience is apparent – muddled choreography and underdeveloped characters make Bare feel more like community theatre than the quality professional theatre Chicago audiences have come to expect. This ensemble is teeming with potential and enthusiasm; I look forward to seeing these actors excel on the city’s many stages in the years to come.

 

    
    
Rating: ★★
   
   

Cast of "Bare", produced by Stage Door Fine Arts, now at Theatre Building Chicago through August 8th, 2010

Bare is playing at Stage 773, 1225 Belmont Ave., August 5 and 6 at 7:30 pm. and August 7 and 8 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm.  Tickets are $20, and all are general admission.

      
    

 

       
       

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REVIEW: Arizona Lady (Chicago Folks Operetta)

A Rootin’ Tootin’ Hungarian Cowboy Opera

Arizona Lady Cast

   
Chicago Folks Operetta presents
   
Arizona Lady
  
Music by Emmerich Kálmán
Translated by
Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov
Directed by
Bill Walters
Music-Directed by
Samuel-Hilaire Duplessis
at
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont  (map)
through August 1st  |  tickets: $25-$35   |  more info

reviewed by Barry Eitel

Even though it is ridiculously sentimental, watching Chicago Folks Operetta put on Emmerich Kálmán’s operetta Arizona Lady had me thinking of Bertolt Brecht. With this work, the Hungarian composer, Kálmán, sets up a counterfeit American landscape, much like Brecht placed In the Jungle of Cities and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui in the exotic (to them) United States. The inhabitants of Kálmán’s Arizona proclaim that the state is full of silver, gold, and cowboy songs, instead of water shortages and racial animosities. In a way, director Bill Walters’ production is surreal and oddly captivating, mostly overcoming its amateurish missteps.

The plot follows the classic Viennese operetta structure, revolving around two pairs of lovers, one comic and the other a bit juicier (for the record, I saw the second cast for the show and the names reflect that). Lona (Juliet Petrus) rules over a ranch and possesses the mind of businesswomen, supposedly without any room for talk of love. Despite this, she is reluctantly attracted to the wandering, singing cowpolk Roy (Gerald Frantzen), offering him a job and the task of priming her horse, Arizona Lady (Maray Gutierrez), for the local race. This storyline is crisscrossed with the courtship between young shop-owner Nelly (Kellie Cundiff) and the son of a beef magnate/cattle “intern” Chester (Matthew Dingels). Horse thieves, the Kentucky Derby, law and order, escaping to Mexico, and Prohibition all stir up the love stories, resulting in a cute, if somewhat vapid, tale of the Old West that never existed.

This fictional world is actually very intriguing. Theatre celebrates unreality, so Kálmán’s West cobbled from Hollywood, Oklahoma!, and the opera halls of Hungary makes for a wholly unique theatrical experience. There’s plenty of guitar and saloon-style piano in the score, but this is joined by waltzes and Hungarian-folk melodies. Walters completely embraces the apparent contradictions, creating a universe that’s all its own. Part of August Tye’s great choreography is ripped from line-dance halls, while some of it smacks of traditional Eastern European dances. Yet all of it works.

While the cast tears up the score, the acting could be polished. Petrus dips in confidence and seems to rely on constant towel-snapping to conjure up Nona’s sassiness instead of letting the text do that for her. On the other hand, Dingels’ goofy mannerisms and genuine squareness may not be great acting, but could possibly be ingenious for the fumbling Chester. Rounding out the leads, Cundiff and Frantzen are fine if somewhat wooden. The supporting cast is pretty hit or miss. The best moments are little bits stitched in the script, like ranch-hands using a child to smuggle liquor past the Sheriff or someone yelling in the middle of a huge dance number, “Hey! I’m dancing!” like they just realized what was going on. Unfortunately, a lot of the comedy falls flat, and the transitions between dialogue and song are downright painful at times. The pace also falls slack in a couple of scenes. (Yes, I understand this is opera, but this light fare doesn’t feel like it should last three hours.)

Gerald Frantzen and Hersh Glagov’s translation of the 1954 operetta, which has never seen an American production until now, is obviously done with a lot of love. While usually charming, the script occasionally gets too silly and audience interest flags. There is also some Spanish dialogue very awkwardly folded in. But they keep Kálmán’s somewhat bizarre world intact.

There are too many stale moments for this Arizona Lady to be completely satisfying, a problem for Glagov, Walters, and the cast. But there’s a lot of passion on-stage over at the Theatre Building. And any indie opera outfit, attempting to do something so grandiose on the budget of a storefront, has a special little piece of my heart.

   
   
Rating: ★★
   
  

Arizona Lady poster

   
   

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REVIEW: Sex Marks the Spot (New Lincoln Theatre)

Even a farce needs to be sincere

  Maggie Grahm and Tony Fiorentino star in Sex Marks the Spot, the incredibly funny political comedy playing at the Theatre Building Chicago.

  
New Lincoln Theatre presents
  
Sex Marks the Spot
  
Written by Charles Grippo
Directed by
Damian Arnold
at
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
through July 25th  |  tickets: $26   | more info

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Sex Marks the Spot is a farce about a political sex scandal. Or at least, it wants to be one. At the top of the play, Senator Clooney (Tony Fiorentino) is pacing around his office, badgering his assistant (Adam Schulmerich) as they attempt to finalize the big family values speech that he is going to deliver at tonight’s big debate with porn star Desiree Le Bonque. The reason he’s debating a porn star instead of a politician is Tony Fiorentino and Maggie  Graham star in  Sex Marks the Spot, the incredibly funny political comedy playing at the Theatre Building Chicagothat his opponent is a priest and, the men have decided that no one can debate a priest and come away from it looking good, so the big porn star offers herself up to be eaten alive in front of thousands of people, a task playwright Charles Grippo assumes, women like her have no problem with. Grippo punishes his audience with a list of Desiree’s films, with names like "Saturday Night Beaver" and "Free My Willy" which, may sound familiar to you, probably because they’re the oldest jokey porn names in the history of jokey porn names.

This kind of thoughtless writing doesn’t bode well for the farce genre, especially a farce like this one, which is in the Noises Off vein of slamming doors and timed exits. Grippo’s logic is faulty, and thus, so are his bits. The audience gets ahead of Grippo at the plays open, and it’s impossible for him to win them over. This is a play without one foot on the ground, nothing real or honest linking the words on stage to the people in the audience, except for it’s earnest cast.

This alone is not enough to garner the obvious venom on the tone of this review. What Charles Grippo is actually guilty of is creating a character that is a disgusting and offensive parody of a woman – a woman who is so broad and weakly conceived that the only characteristic she possesses is vague sycophantism and greed. The only choice this woman makes in the entirety of the play is to take off her clothes, which remain off for the duration of the show. When we finally meet Desiree Le Bonque, she is not written as a porn star, she is written as a whore. She is revealed to be having a secret affair with the senator, and she confronts the him with an ultimatum, marry me or I’ll tell. But it’s her reasoning that pushes her over the edge: she wants the one thing she can’t have: respect. So she asks to marry the one man who can give it to her. Farce or no farce, I can’t imagine a woman alive who still thinks this way, especially one who is supposed to be as successful as Desiree Le Bonque.

   

Adam Schulmerich and Tony Fiorentino star in Sex Marks the Spot, the incredibly funny political comedy playing at the Theatre Building Chicago Tony Fiorentino and Lisa Herceg star in  Sex Marks the Spot, the incredibly funny political comedy playing at the Theatre Building Chicago.

In a later scene, in which the truly talented Adam Schulmerich is forced to masquerade as Desiree, the scene escalates near to the point of rape, because of the supposed understanding that a denial of sex with the man in question will reveal that he is not, in fact, this woman. The scene is intended to be funny, but is actually one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever seen in a piece of live theater. It’s not the punchline of this joke that’s horrible, it’s the set up. It’s not the sex, or the sexualization, it’s the total lack of power and credibility this character has, and the information that the audience is supposed to take for granted, that makes for an extremely uncomfortable night of theater. Sex Marks the Spot is intended to be a comedy, but ultimately this is a play that is too far removed from humanity to parody the human condition.

  
  
Rating: ★½
  
  

Tony Fiorentino, Adam Schulmerich and  Maggie Graham star in  Sex Marks the Spot, the incredibly funny political comedy playing at the Theatre Building Chicago.

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Theater Thursday: Rhythm of Life! Musical Review (Hydrate)

Thursday, June 10
   
Rhythm of Life! A Musical Review
   
Chicago Cabaret Project
at
Hydrate Night Club, 3458 N. Halsted (map)
      

chicagocabaretExperience magic of the Cabaret during this two hour revue of song that will have a tear in your eye one song and laughing during the next. Enjoy a one hour hosted bar and appetizer reception prior to the performance provided by Halsted’s Bar and Grill and Hydrate Night Club. A dialogue with Artistic Director Kyle Hustedt and the cast of the Chicago Cabaret Project will follow the performance. Join Mistress of Ceremonies: Lynne Jordan, guest entertainer: Rus Rainear as Carol Channing and the Project as they deliver an evening of sheer entertainment! Saucy, Sexy Cabaret!

 

Event begins at 6:30 p.m.  Show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door 

For tickets and information visit www.chicagocabaretproject.com

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REVIEW: Tying Up Loose Ends (Breathe Life Productions)

Face to face with ‘Loose Ends’

 tying-up-loose-end

   
Breathe Life Productions present
  
Tying Up Loose Ends

Written and Performed by Catherine and Ann Gallogly
Directed By
Jamie O’Reilly
Music by
Ann Gallogly & Dan Stetzel

at Theatre Building Chicago
through July 28th  |  tickets:  $18-$25   |  more info

reviewed by K.D. Hopkins

I must preface this review by saying that I work with elderly people in my other existence. I had some trepidation about seeing a musical on the subject matter of people transitioning and dying. The decision of going into hospice care is quite often difficult; one that requires facing your own mortality. Catherine Gallogly has written a heart-rending set of stories from her own experiences as a hospice nurse. Tying Up Loose Ends takes the audience through twelve stories of individuals facing the end of life and how she helped them.

Lovely songs done in cabaret style by Ann Gallogly and pianist Dan Stetzel accompany the stories. Catherine and Ann are mother and daughter respectively and the mutual admiration and respect is felt when watching them perform. Actually, this is not so much a performance as it is a storytelling session done with great flair and purity. Catherine Gallogly never treads on maudlin territory or into making the story about her. She gives due justice to the lives of the people and how she shared in helping them to the next phase. Ms. Gallogly is not an actress and makes no pretense of great drama or false emoting. She is a comforting and refreshing presence intimately sharing with the audience.

The stories are sometimes romantic and always mindful that sometimes there is humor to be found in death because it is a part of life. The story of the man dying from liver cancer had an unexpected romantic edge to it that bordered on the erotic. Gallogly describes him coming home from the hospital for one last meal of pot roast and potatoes. He is an old man who has been married for a long time. The details of how his wife runs to him and how he kisses her and caresses her have a voyeuristic feel and indeed, Gallogly confesses, “I shouldn’t be here”. It was a privilege for her to witness such a love and to make that intimate moment possible.

I found much humor in the story of Gallogly traveling to a slum neighborhood to attend to a dying African American woman. The patient self medicates with liquor and asks her nurse to give her eulogy. Ms. Gallogly was taken aback but forged ahead, honored to have been asked and in awe of the resplendence of Black funerals. She tells of her plain, black “Irish funeral attire” and all of the church ladies in their colorful outfits and hats.

My favorite song of the evening- “Goin’ Home” accompanied this segment. Ann Gallogly belted out the tune wearing a serious hat and gospel flair from deep in her soul.

I recommend Tying Up Loose Ends for anyone who is contemplating their lives no matter the situation. These tales of hospice give strength and encouragement to live big and love bigger. They will make you laugh and possibly break your heart open. To be a witness of someone’s last moments of life is an intimate and profound thing. Catherine Gallogly shares a joyous and wonderful celebration of life.

It should be noted that I bristled a bit at the woman who came out before the show to question people about what they expected the show to be like. Perhaps some people came to settle their own issues but it felt like an unnecessary intrusion. The lady seemed a bit put off when I said I expected a musical about hospice and shared no other details. There is no need to prescreen or prep people for what they are about to see. It was as welcome as the $3.00 can of soda.

     
     
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Performances are on Wednesdays only through July 28th with no shows on June 2nd or June 9th. Tying Up Loose Ends is a Breathe Life Production at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Check it out.

Theater Wit opens smart performance space in Lakeview

Architect Richard_Kasemsarn (photo by Dick Smith) Architect Richard Kasemsarn with the plan of Theater Wit. (Photo by Dick Smith.)

 

Theater Wit: Chicago’s newest performance space opens

 

By Leah A. Zeldes

"It’s jaw-droppingly different," says Jeremy Wechsler, artistic director of Theater Wit, about his troupe’s new home.

After 16 months of a $1.3-million joists-out renovation, the one-time post office adjoining Theatre Building Chicago is now the sparkling new Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. (map), a dynamic new multi-performance space. The building, most recently Bailiwick Arts Centre, still has a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross before the city of Chicago grants its Public Amusements Venue license. Wechsler expects it in mid- Theater Wit lobby (photo by Joel Wanek) May; for now, Wit is running its inaugural play, Spin (our review ★★★), on a "suggested donations" basis. Valet parking isn’t in place yet, either, but for the time being, Wit has arranged free parking in the lot behind Cooper’s restaurant across the street.

The building now houses three 99-seat black-box theaters, providing a new showcase for intimate local productions.

"This is a size of theater that didn’t exist," Wechsler says. "There were (too small) 70-seat theaters, in which you could never turn a profit on a show, and (too expensive) 150-seat theaters … in which you could never turn a profit on a show. I really wanted this size of theater for myself."

Along with Wechsler’s Theater Wit company, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Shattered Globe Theatre and Stage Left Theatre will share the space as resident troupes, contributing work to the building and using about 75 percent of the performance time, with the remainder available for rental. In the fall, once all the theaters are up and running, Wit will introduce a flex-pass arrangement for tickets to all productions.

Architect Richard Kasemsarn explains that the theaters are cleverly separated by dressing rooms to create easy backstage access and keep sound from bleeding from one to the other. They are also insulated from exterior noise, save for occasional seepage through the brick wall from the adjoining Theatre Building. New metal joists support a variety of lighting configurations.

Theater Wit lobby (photo credit: Joel Wanek) One of the three theaters will feature flexible seating, not yet installed. Seats in the other two, salvaged from a Bolingbrook high-school auditorium, are surprisingly wide and comfortable, and they’re spaced with reasonable leg room, although their incline and offset don’t quite keep tall people from blocking your sight lines.

Theater Wit exterior (photo credit: Joel Wanek) Architectural salvage provides handsomely quirky decorative elements through the space, although you won’t mistake this for a posh downtown theater. It does retain that hand-built, slightly rough quality common to Chicago storefronts. Kasemsarn, who teaches at the School of the Art Institute, recruited students to help with the finishing.

The modest lobby features a bar, and the building has ample restrooms — a seven-stall ladies’ room should minimize lines at intermission. Oversized ductwork is intended to keep theater goers at comfortable temperatures without contributing noise.

"I really want to control everything from the time you hit that lobby door," Wechsler says.

Theater Wit architectural drawings (photo by Dick Smith)

REVIEW: Stage Door (Griffin Theatre)

Huge, hugely talented cast gives their all to ‘Stage Door’

 JeanineBowlwareMechellemoeStacieBarraErinMeyerSkylerSchremmpJenniferBetancourt

 
Griffin Theatre Company presents
 
Stage Door
 
By Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman
Directed by Robin Witt
Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. (map)
though May 23 | tickets: $18-$28 | more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

One of the most overlooked and underrated writers of the 20th century, Edna Ferber brilliantly showcased the lives of working women in her keenly stories. In the 1936 Stage Door, Ferber and George S. Kaufman crafted an impressive and charming drama about one such downtrodden group.

MechelleMoeatpaino Set in the Footlights Club, a New York boardinghouse for theatrical women, the story follows the lives of the young contenders of Broadway. Hoping for their big break, they subsist on hope and pennies … and often succumb to temptations away from the stage. For the luckiest, Hollywood lures; for others, love, or security, or pure hopelessness.

No one would write a play like this today, and Griffin deserves tremendous props for producing it all. It’s not that its themes haven’t been covered in subsequent plays — 1991’s I Hate Hamlet, for instance, takes on similar Broadway vs. Hollywood issues — but that the cast is huge. There are 32 distinct characters, played in this production by a cast of 27. Quite literally, they don’t make ’em like this anymore!

What’s more, when I say "distinct characters," I mean just that. Each is skillfully introduced, significant and a unique personality that adds to the heart and spunk of this rich play. Director Robin Witt brings out those traits to the fullest.

Mechelle Moe stars as the central character: plucky, generous Terry Randall, who’s been trying to make a go of it on Broadway for three years. Despite her lack of success, she remains stagestruck. "We live and breathe theater and that’s what I’m crazy about," she says.

Her friends tell her she’s talented, but she hasn’t managed more than a few weeks of work in all her time in New York. The play suggests that’s because she’s not beautiful and doesn’t appear well offstage. It’s perhaps a slight flaw in the script that we never see Terry acting, and can’t judge for ourselves. Moe’s own performance occasionally seems too gung-ho, like the young Judy Garland enthusing about putting on a play in the barn, but she makes the audience care about Terry.

We do get to judge the talents of Olga Brandt, a classically trained pianist who earns a living playing for dance rehearsals. "For that I studied fifteen years with Kolijinsky!" she says in disgust, and solaces herself by playing Chopin on the boardinghouse piano. Janeane Bowlware is both a skilled musician and delightfully funny in this difficult role. (In a nice theatrical in-joke, during most of the play, the piano’s music stand displays sheet music from Show Boat, the Jerome KernOscar Hammerstein musical based on Ferber’s 1926 novel.)

We also see some fine comic turns from Sara McCarthy as Bernice Niemeyer, the house busybody; Erin Meyers as the man-hating Ann Braddock; Ashley Neal and Christina Gorman as Big Mary and Little Mary, a Mutt and Jeff duo; and Kate McGroarty as Pat Devine, a leggy dancer earning her living in nightclub shows.

Other notable performances include Stacie Barra, archly dry as Terry’s cynical friend Judith Canfield, and Jeremy Fisher, strong as Keith Burgess, the earnest young playwright on whom Terry pins her hopes. Lucy Carapetyan is ardent as Jean Maitland, who urges Terry to go with her to Hollywood.

mechellemoeJamesFarruggio Maggie Cain gives us a matter-of-fact Mattie, the boardinghouse’s maid of all work, and Chuck Filipov a subtle performance as Frank, a teenage household helper, while Mary Anne Bowman alternately fawns and frowns as Mrs. Orcutt, a one-time actress turned boardinghouse manager.

Judith Lesser and Mary Poole play a compelling scene as Linda Shaw, sneaking in after a night with wealthy married man, and her unexpectedly visiting mother.

Marika Engelhardt plays Madeleine Vauclain, an actress from Seattle, trying to find a double date for visiting hometown conventioneers — Jeff Duhigg and Paul Popp, as a pair of buffoonish Pacific Northwest lumbermen. Rakisha Pollard is brave as Louise Mitchell, an unsuccessful actress sadly leaving Broadway to marry the boy back home in Wisconsin.

It feels like hair-splitting to point out the few flaws. James Farruggio seems a little stiff as David Kingsley, the moviemakers’ agent who urges Terry to stick to the stage, and Caroline Neff is a bit too detached as Kaye Hamilton, Terry’s desperate and destitute roommate.

D’wayne Taylor doubles as a Hollywood producer and as Terry’s father, a small-town Indiana doctor. He acts well in both parts, but he stands out oddly as the one African American in the company, making me wonder what led Witt to cast him. Color-blind casting works well when it’s done with consistency, but if you’re going to suspend historical accuracy for the sake of diversity, you need more than a token. When all the rest of such a large cast is white, it jars suspension of disbelief to have the sole black person in the show play the father of a white woman.

Filling out the cast, Jennifer Betancourt plays Bobby Melrose, a Southern belle; Morgan Maher is her boyfriend, Sam Hastings, an actor from Texas. Joey deBettencourt portrays Jimmy Devereaux, a confident would-be actor who hasn’t ever auditioned for a professional part; Skyler Schrempp, Susan Paige, perpetual understudy; and Erin O’Shea Kendall Adams, daughter of a family of Boston Brahmins.

Witt stages the show in three acts, with two intermissions — a 1930s convention that always makes feel as if I’ve really been to the theater — and blocks it beautifully, particularly in a wonderful Act III scene that puts nearly all the cast onstage. Marianna Csaszar‘s convincing set, built around a central staircase, helps to give the wide-ranging scenes focus.

Stage Door was the basis of the 1937 film of the same name, but the movie’s plot bears little similarity to this delicious play (which seems rather a meta-joke in itself). Don’t miss this rarely performed gem.

 
Rating: ★★★½
 

MechelleStacieCaroline

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