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Anton in Show Business
a Comedy
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Jane Martin

COMPANY : The Weird Sisters Theatre Project
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4323

SHOWING : August 07, 2012 - August 21, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This comedy follows three actresses across the footlights, down the rabbit hole and into a strangely familiar Wonderland that looks a lot like American theatre ...the resemblance is uncanny! As these women pursue their dream of performing Chekhov in Texas, they're whisked through a maelstrom of "good ideas" that offer unique solutions to the Three Sister's need to have life's deeper purpose revealed. In the tradition of great backstage comedies, Anton in Show Business conveys the joys, pains and absurdities of "putting on a play" at the turn of the century.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Veronika Duerr
Assistant Director Nicholas Faircloth
Lighting Designer Matt Felten
ASM Dani Herd
Stage Manager Bryan Lee
ASM Vinnie Mascola
Holly Kelly Criss
Kate, Ben, Jackey Taylor Dooley
Joby Rachel Frawley
Lisabette Jaclyn Hofmann
Casey Megan Rose Houchins
T-Anne, Andwyneth, Don Blunt Tiffany Porter
Ralph, Wikewitch, Joe Bob Annie York
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Beating a Dead Horse ... From the Inside
by Dedalus
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
4.5
So, what do you get when you combine a fictional playwright (Jane Martin) with a meta-story about theatre people doing theatre things with non-theatre people trying to keep up with the help of a shill of a character in their midst?

Well, as a theatre person, I have to say you get a delightful romp with a troupe of women that skewers all the absurdities of a life in the theatre at the same time it pays them due homage. You get an ensemble of absurdly cast ladies pulling out all the stops in a blistering display of talent that�ll leave you breathless (if not with awe, then at least with laughter). You get a gloriously no-budget production that hits every note right and whooshes you on your way, smiling and (as a theatre person) feeling a bit justified and empowered and smugly superior to those �not of our tribe.�

I suppose if I weren�t a theatre person, I�d get all the same stuff, but would occasionally lose my way in the fog of �in jokes.� But, that�s an issue for the mundanes to worry about. I�ll even lend them a fog lamp.

So, here�s the story. Lisabette and Casey are two actresses in New York. Lisabette is a wide-eyed innocent, fresh off the bus from parts south. Casey is a veteran of too many unpaid off-off Broadway productions. They are auditioning for a new �Three Sisters.� After melting down at the feet of a pretentious British director, they are perversely hired by Holly, a jaded television star bank-rolling (or is it steam-rolling?) the production to give her reputation some �serious stage cred.� Faster than you can say �Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay� (if only we could know), the �sisters� are off to San Antonio and an ever-bewildering parade of can�t-keep-the-job directors, all with a �vision,� none with a clue. Toss in a tobacco magnate with deep (if fickle) pockets, a country singer leaving his wife for Holly, a stage manager keeping us apprised of what�s going on, and a cranky audience member (soon to be revealed as a {deleted by the you-can-figure-it-out-yourself police}) who seems to question every choice made by the writer and director and actresses, and � you know this sentence has gone on for so long now that I forget what I started out talking about. .

What really elevates this play above a simple satire of stage shenanigans is an underlying respect and even affection for theatre and the eccentrics who keep it alive. You�ve heard the sound byte �Love the theatre, hate the drama� that, at root, whines about ego and diva-ism and hissy fits and all the other excesses our kind is/are prone to? This play is a case of �Really love the theatre and the drama is kind of fun too!� It turns out that Holly can be directed and has some talent. It turns out that the bizarre final director can actually get his cast to deliver. It turns out that the �sisters� bond and have a grand time together. And it turns out that these three have some Anton in them, even if they can show it only to {Deleted by the �Do-I-Have-To-Edit-Everything-You-Say-?� police}.

Which brings us to the Weird Sisters Theatre Project. Here is a group of actresses. mostly associated with the Shakespeare Tavern (which plays host to this production). All of them have shown out-of-ballpark talent in the past, and none of them disappoints here. Comic force-of-nature Kelly Criss plays Holly as a sorta spoiled diva, over-confident in her (considerable) sexual charm, under-confident in her (also considerable) talent. Jaclyn Hofmann gives Lisabette a Southern charm that oozes like butter from a bowl of grits, a sincerity that we used to have, but too many of us lose too quickly. Megan Rose Houchins scowls and sulks her way as Casey, finding charm and sympathy in the most �olga-ish� of the sisters, warming slowly until burning brightly. Rachel Frawley is (too often) invisible as the �heckler Joby, but she too gets to step into the light and express a sincere (if critical) love of theatre. Three other actresses (Tiffany Porter, Taylor M. Dooley, and Annie York) play dodge-ball with about a dozen other characters, male and female, (and, a more than one meta-moment, females acknowledging they�re playing males). I was especially impressed by Ms. York parade of can-you-be-more absurd directors (all male, of course � one of the deliciously ironic points of the play � �80% of the roles in the American theatre are played by men, and 90% of the directors are men�). I also liked Ms. Dooley�s stark (and, at one point, insanely quick) transition from the flamboyant Kate to the reticent Joe Bob. All were wrangled by first-time director Veronika Duerr, who here shows herself just as impressive behind the scenes as she has been before our eyes. Based on her work here, it would be a crime if the Tavern let her nascent directing skills languish on the shelf.

So, what we have is a young female company (a sort of �lighter side� of Synchronicity Theatre�s overtly feminist vision) in their second production (unfortunately, I missed last year�s �Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief�), and I was left simply hungry for more. Granted, I�m a rabid theatre geek, so any play about the theatre (usually) works well for me. But here, I was taken in and spellbound from the firsdt word to the last, which, of course, means I expect only the best from this group in the future.

I do have to end on a slight correction. At one point, the �heckler� Joby describes a meta-theatrical event about the death of theatre as an art form like �beating a dead horse � from the inside� (can we coin the word sado-necroequifilia to describe such an activity?). Because of the love of theatre that permeates this script, and the care and joy brought to it by this production, I prefer to think of it as �Tickling a Live Horse � From the Inside.�

If only we could know!

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)


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