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Lillian Likes It

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Joshua Mikel

COMPANY : Essential Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : West End Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4764

SHOWING : July 31, 2015 - August 23, 2015

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Starting out as a satirical look at the world of social media, this quirky comedy takes a turn into deeper territory when Lillian thinks she may have found the perfect guy — unfortunately, he’s dead, but does that really matter if she can still chat with him online? The World Premiere of the Winner of the 2015 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Shannon Eubanks
Lillian Alyssa Caputo
Ernie Tyler Hayes
Babs/Gatekeeper/EE Antonia LaChè
Larry and Ed Pickler Ben Silver
Lynne Christie Vozniak
Knife Pat Young
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REVIEWS

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Style Over Substance
by playgoer
Monday, August 10, 2015
3.5
"Lillian Likes It" sheaths a fairly sweet romantic comedy in a framework of foul-mouthed web posts and like/unfriend requests. The trivial nature of the background noise doesn’t act as a counterbalance to the story; instead, it informs and cheapens the material. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for these shallow millennials, although it’s easy for audiences to be entertained by them under Shannon Eubanks’ energetic direction.

The story builds upon the unlikely premise that an engaged co-worker Lillian once slept with (and then steered clear of) was secretly in love with her, and tasked his widow with telling Lillian after his untimely death. To make things more awkward, Lillian uses the fictional Lazarus website to set up an account for him that will use online data to fill in a profile for him that allows the program to generate texts and conversations in his persona. Lillian then falls in love with this persona, upsetting both the widow and Lillian’s own fiancé.

Director Shannon Eubanks has staged the action nicely on Harley Gould’s set, which uses black cubes and an orange crate as furniture, and supplies crudely painted computer/tablet scrims as background decoration (illuminated from behind for certain computer-related interactions). Some of the action takes place in a yoga studio, though, which forces the actors to lie on the floor, compromising sightlines for much of the audience.

Rial Ellsworth’s sound design and Harley Gould’s lighting design have a lot to do, and have a lot to do with the success of the production. Lighting focuses the action nicely, and the soundscape reverberates with the pesky sounds of cell phone texts. Jane B. Kroessig’s costumes barely register as costumes.

Five of the six actors in the cast (all except Alyssa Caputo, as Lillian) are asked to perform double or triple duty, populating the stage with major and minor supporting characters. They do a fairly good job of delineating their different characters, although the rapid-fire pace of group scenes tends to make things blur together. Especially fine performances are given by Pat Young as Knife, a blackmailing coffee shop employee, and Antonia LaChé, as both the widow and a computer avatar. Ben Silver is charismatic in the dual roles of the dead man and his identical twin brother (yes, it’s that kind of comedy).

The show is bright and bubbly, ending with a laugh, although the second act moves toward the serious, as Lillian’s obsession with a dead man forces her to confront the repercussions in the real world. There’s a little bit of preachifying near the end that I could have done without (and a lot of "Lillian likes it" and "Lillian unfriends" comic filler in the first act that I felt teetered on the brink of becoming tiresome), but the plot unfolds nicely, with just the right amount of foreshadowing. Joshua Mikel has written a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy that the Essential Theatre Play Festival is doing justice to. Most people would probably like it much more than I did.
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