BWW Reviews: PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM: FAC and the Work of a Difficult Genius
It's getting harder and harder to separate Woody Allen's professional work from the rumors of his personal life. Just hours before I attended the Fine Arts Center's production of Play it Again, Sam I read Dylan Farrow's open letter to the New York Times, where she graphically describes being sexually abused by Allen when she was seven years old. The 1993 investigation into these claims proved inconclusive; the truth will probably never be known. But Farrow's harrowing confession is not something that can be lightly brushed aside.
None of this is the fault of Joye Cook-Levy or the energetic cast she has assembled for Allen's play about struggling through relationships and intimacy, managing well with material that, depending on your perspective, may feel rather problematic.
Gary Littman stars in the Allen role, Allan (note spelling difference) Felix, who is typical of his creator's protagonists: nebbish, neurotic, and cripplingly insecure. Recently divorced from his wife, Allan is once more looking for romance, hobbled by what might charitably be called "issues with women." His attitude towards the opposite sex is one of alternating terror and dismissiveness, as if he both considers himself God's gift to women and recognizes how far short he falls of that ideal. Perhaps this is why he idealizes Humphrey Bogart (Cory Moosman, channeling Bogey in voice and manner if not appearance), who represents a confidence and casual chauvinism that Allan envies.
Through the string of disastrous dates that follow, Allan is encouraged by his friends, advised by Bogart, and tormented by the specter of his ex-wife (Amy Sue Hardy). The only woman he seems to relate to is Linda (Lija Fisher), who shares a lot of his neurosis. But Linda, alas, is already off the table-she's the wife of Allan's workaholic best bud Charlie (Chad Siebert). Those who are familiar with that most iconic of Bogart films, Casablanca, can probably guess where it all leads.
Cook-Levy's direction keeps the action engaging and humorous, as does Littman's dead-on Allen imitation and spastic physical comedy. Fisher provides some much-needed warmth and depth among a crop of female characters that can feel more like a series of punchlines than human constructs, and she has excellent chemistry with both Littman and Siebert. Holly Anne Rawls' lighting adds the right atmosphere to Allan's flashbacks and fantasy sequences, but Saturday's performance was plagued by sound problems, with the microphones delivering distracting echoes through several speeches.
If nothing else, Woody Allen's skill with dialogue and clever quips is in evidence throughout the entire play, and the cast delivers his words with sharp skill and timing that's sure to induce laughter. It's just that with the echo of Dylan Farrow's words, the laughter may be harder to hear.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM runs at the Fine Arts Center now through February 16th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. For tickets, call 719-634-5583 or visit www.csfineartscenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Kearney