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It’s Only a Play
a Comedy
by Terrence McNally

COMPANY : The Process Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Artisan Resource Center
ID# 5331

SHOWING : September 07, 2018 - September 22, 2018



It is opening night of Peter Austin’s new play as he anxiously awaits to see if his show is a hit. With his career on the line, he shares his big First Night with his best friend, a television star, his fledgling producer, his erratic leading lady, his wunderkind director, an infamous drama critic, and a wide-eyed coat check attendant on his first night in Manhattan. It is alternately raucous, ridiculous and tender — reminding audiences why there is no business like show business.

Director DeWayne Morgan
Gus Frankie Asher
Virginia Noyes Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Peter Austin Larry Davis
Julia Budder Liane Lemaster
James Wicker Zip Rampy
Ira Drew Bob Smith
Frank Finger Pat Young
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For the Theatre "In" Crowd
by playgoer
Monday, September 10, 2018
Terrence McNally’s "It’s Only a Play" is a twisted love letter to the contemporary Broadway stage. It takes place at the party after opening of a new, widely anticipated Broadway play. The setting (designed by Harley Gould) is the elegantly appointed bedroom of producer Julia Budder (Liane LeMaster), with a chaise down left, a pair of chairs down right, and a bed up center upon which coats of the party guests are being piled. A door up right leads to the rest of the house; a door up left leads to a bathroom used to contain a sometimes vicious dog. Wall art, carpet, and a rug all add to the upscale feel of the room, although seams in the flats are noticeable under Mr. Gould’s brightest lighting. Thankfully, the action is busy enough under DeWayne Morgan’s direction to keep attention focused on the actors.

And what a band of actors they are! Ms. LeMaster is a sheer delight as a cliché-mangling first-time solo producer, and Frankie Asher brings tons of wide-eyed, star-struck verve to coat wrangler Gus. Barbara Cole Uterhardt plays a foul-mouthed movie-to-Broadway has-been with her usual pizzazz and spot-on comic timing. Bob Smith invests critic Ira Drew with an oversized personality, and Pat Young makes Brit director Sir Frank Finger a twitching mass of neuroses. Larry Davis anchors the action as playwright Peter Austin, and Zip Rampy is absolute perfection as his limp-wristed best friend and TV star, for whom the just-opened play was intended, but who passed on it after reading it.

The plot introduces us to the characters and their relationships in act one, leading up to (but not including) the reading of the New York Times’ review. In act two, when the reviews aren’t all that might be hoped, plans are hatched to keep the theatre in use, to prevent it from being the venue for "Riverdance 11." (Yes, that’s the sort of humor the play indulges in.)

The egos on display are as big as all outdoors, and the fake compliments and name-dropping give a brittle sheen to the proceedings. There are all sorts of references to Broadway celebrities, and Mr. Davis reels off a delightfully long list of up-and-coming playwrights whose names may be familiar only to theatre cognoscenti. The play is definitely targeted to the Broadway "in" crowd, but its non-stop silliness and larger-than-life characters make it a treat for any theatre fan.

The physical production adds to the fun. Mr. Gould’s lighting helps to delineate the act ends, and Charlie Miller’s sound design is a true delight, letting us hear party sounds whenever the bedroom door is opened. Frankie Earle’s props do absolutely everything they need to, and Nancye Quarles Hilley’s costumes impress with their opening night glamor.

Director DeWayne Morgan has obviously inspired his cast to come up with characterizations that invest their characters’ idiosyncratic quirks with the deep-seated sincerity that makes comic acting all the more comic. This show may not be for everyone, but the only audiences it’s not intended for are drama snob curmudgeons and sour-faced critics of the sublimely ridiculous. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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