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The Book Club Play
a Comedy
by Karen Zacarias

COMPANY : Live Arts Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Belfry Playhouse (inside Norcross Presbyterian Church) [WEBSITE]
ID# 5358

SHOWING : July 12, 2019 - July 27, 2019



Loads of laughter and literature collide in this smart hit comedy about books and the people who love them. Ana is a Type A personality who lives in a letter-perfect world with an adoring husband, the perfect job and her greatest passion: Book Club. But when her cherished group becomes the focus of a documentary film, their intimate discussions about life and literature take a turn for the hilarious in front of the inescapable camera lens. Add a provocative new member along with some surprising new book titles, and these six friends are bound for pandemonium. Sprinkled with fun theatrical references to documentaries and novels galore from Moby Dick and Age of Innocence to Twilight and The Da Vinci Code, this buoyant comedy on contemporary culture will have everyone laughing … and reflecting. The Book Club Play is a delightful new play about life, love, literature and the side-splitting results when friends start reading between the lines.

Recommended for: Ages 10+ due to adult content.

Cast Meredith Jones
Director Andre Eaton
Assistant Director Daniel Parker
Costume Design Dawn Davridge
Set Construction Liam Davridge
Lighting Design Andre Eaton
Stage Manager Andrea Hermitt
Set Construction Troy Jones
Sound Design Jeffrey Liu
Set construction Jeffrey Liu
Set Design Becca Parker
Props Blair Sanders
Jen Alison Lee Brady
Will R. Chandler Bragg
Lily Jordan Hermitt
Alex Justtyn Hutcheson
Ana Smith Cat Roche
Rob Scott Starkweather
Alex Sean Turner
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Soon to Be Last Year’s Non-Related Movie
by playgoer
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
"Book Club" was released last year as a movie starring actresses of a certain age reading "50 Shades of Grey." "The Book Club Play" is something quite different. It does mention "50 Shades of Grey" at one point, though, so who’s to say it didn’t help inspire the movie? My warning: don’t see "Book Club" the movie and try to pretend you’ve seen "The Book Club Play." That would be worse than a book club member watching the movie instead of reading the related book!

"The Book Club Play" was done six years ago at Horizon Theatre in an overblown production. Live Arts’ production is necessarily more modest, given the small size of the black box Belfrey Theatre, but that tends to make the action more focused. The fact that Becca Parker’s projections all show up in the same place helps to ground the action. That doesn’t mean that this is a static show in the least. Bookcases swivel and doors slide open in Ms. Parker’s set design to host the little monologue segments that are sprinkled throughout the play.

The monologue segments feature viewpoints on book clubs by a variety of characters -- an FBI agent, a Wal-Mart employee, an inmate, and others. They’re entertaining and give five of the actors a chance to show their acting range, but they seem devised primarily to allow the other actors to change costumes between scenes. That, of course, puts a burden on the monologist to get theirs changed in a split-second. On opening night, Dawn Davridge’s costumes didn’t always allow split-second changes, but Jeffrey Liu’s sound design covers scene changes very nicely, so a slight delay in the entrance of the cast wouldn’t have been unappreciated. The costumes are character-appropriate, varied, and appealing.

Other technical productions of the show are good, if not superb. Scene changes can seem a bit clunky. Props designer Blair Sanders is to be lauded for finding so many versions of the books read by and dishes tasted by the book club, but photocopies of the double-page script in a supposedly typewritten manuscript are glaringly obvious in the tiny playing space. André Eaton Jr.’s lighting design has only subtle variations, but they are effective.

Mr. Eaton’s contribution to the play come mostly from his direction. He has encouraged his actors to find distinctive characteristics for their characters that are expressed in deportment and physicality in addition to the words they speak. Reactions are priceless, so you may find your eye wandering around the stage to gauge the effect of a line on various book club members.

The cast members are all good or better in their roles. Rick Chandler Bragg plays a prissy history buff and a distinctly different FBI agent, nailing both roles. Alison Lee has a generally deadpan delivery that sparks a good deal of comedy, although her secondary character doesn’t seem altogether different. Jordan Hermitt clearly traces the arc of her main character, a newbie at the start who becomes an established member. She’s fun and bright as her secondary character too. Justtyn Hutcheson does a fine job of differentiating his main character, a newer newbie, from a prison inmate. Scott Starkweather is hilarious throughout as the husband of the book club founder, played by Cat Rondeau. Ms. Rondeau controls a lot of the action, and her secure command of her lines sometimes contrasted with opening night missteps by a couple of the other actors. She really comes into her own in the second act, when the perky faux-cheerfulness of her initial scenes gives way to darker moods. But this is a comedy, so her emotional instability leads to many laughs.

I didn’t have particularly fond memories of Horizon’s production of "The Book Club Play," so I thought I didn’t like play itself. Not true! This is a funny script that works remarkably well in an intimate venue. André Eaton Jr.’s direction and the talents of the cast make this a truly fun evening of theatre. It’s always great to be pleasantly surprised by a show you’re giving a second chance to. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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