BWW Reviews: ALL ABOUT STEVE - Fasten Seat Belts for a Bawdy Night
Every year when I go to a Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project (SATP) "Prelude to Pride" show, I prepare myself in a few different ways. First, I purchase my ticket in advance, because the show is almost always performed in front of a packed house. Second, I get ready to laugh a lot - some of which is at humor I'd be embarrassed to relay in front of my mother. And third, I wear waterproof mascara because I know Garry Bruel will inevitably make me cry.
Bruel, founder of the SATP, always says a few words before the show; first introducing a guest speaker from the organization benefitting from proceeds of that year's production. He thanks the actors and crew involved in the show, and the audience for joining them that evening. He mentions those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, and how organizations like this year's beneficiary, Metro Wellness and Community Centers, work so diligently to help people in need. He gets visibly emotional during this portion and it gets me every time. One tremor in his voice and I'm the basket case, 4th row center.
He never speaks about himself or brags about the abundance of good he's done for the community. Luckily he doesn't have to; the community will gladly boast on his behalf. They do so not only in words, but in action. The talented people involved in every Prelude to Pride production donate their time and energy for the cause. The cost of admission is "pay what you can" and raffle tickets for a 50/50 prize pot are available - the prize being the sum of money collected; half of which is donated to the charity, the other given to the winner. More often than not, the winner returns their half to SATP. It truly is an event pregnant with generosity.
This year, Bruel did briefly reference his current clash with illness. In April, he was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. However, he only mentioned this in passing in the midst of explaining how once he's triumphed over this particular battle, how much more he planned on doing with SATP. Cue my waterworks again.
The great part about crying is how seamlessly you can transition from tearing up because you're sad, to tearing up because you're laughing so hard. This year's theme was a spoof on the 1950's film "All About Eve," appropriately named "All About Steve." In this version (written by T. Scott Wooten) we meet Margo Channing (Matthew McGee), the Tony Award winning star of "Older than Dirt: the Musical." Despite her success and having the love - whether she wants it or not - of Bill (Eric Davis), an equally successful, emotionally volatile director. Margo is becoming increasingly concerned about her upcoming 40th birthday, when she meets Steve Harrington (Scott Daniel), her self-proclaimed biggest fan who uses trickery and one heck of an authentic wig to get backstage. Initially taken under Margo's wing as an assistant, Steve quickly goes from fan to foe and from Steve to Eve; leaving Margo wondering what exactly is his/her ultimate agenda.
The show takes popular songs and tweaks the music (created by Michael Raabe) to fit its campy story. Among the double entendres, we also have a cast of equally wicked characters, including a manipulative theater critic (Brian Shea), a philandering playwright (Jerid Fox) and his sort of-kind of fiancée (Sara DelBeato), a drug addled Marilyn Monroe (Jonelle Marie Meyer), and a producer whose words are about as hard to understand as his allegiance (Joseph Parra).
The cast played well off of one another; some taking advantage of the fact that they weren't entirely familiar with the script (as directed by Bruel). At one point Daniel made a suggestive gesture when saying a seemingly innocent line; something he apparently had not done in their premier performance that Monday, and caused McGee to briefly lose track of his next line. "That's new, you bitch," he quipped, laughing. The audience loved it.
It's an unusual set up for a play; where the 4th wall is demolished, the mistakes seem intentional and simply add to the overall humor.
Under the direction of Bruel, "All About Steve," brought together a lineup of caring individuals to bring laughter to the masses while shining light on an important subject. One can only imagine what the SATP Team has up their sleeves for next year. One thing is for sure, I'll have my Kleenex and my funny bone ready and waiting.
Photo Credit: Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project Facebook