BWW Review: IT'S ONLY A PLAY - Viciously Funny
Terrence McNally's take on the dog eat dog world of producing on Broadway, IT'S ONLY A PLAY, currently playing at Sam Bass Theatre, is a bitingly funny regional premiere.
The play made its Broadway debut in 2014 with an all star cast including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing and Megan Mullally. The show is set in the Manhattan bedroom of Julia Budder (Rhonda Roe), a Broadway producer on the opening night of her first play, The Golden Egg. We meet Gus (Nicholas Mani), a would-be actor who is the hired help for the party going on downstairs. James Wicker (Jeff Shaevel), a successful television actor and the playwright's best friend enters to make a private phone call decrying the production as a huge turkey. Scandal ridden, leading actress Virginia Noyes (Mary Southon) uses the room to fortify herself with a little something from her drugstore of a purse. The Golden Egg's wunderkind director, Frank Finger (Cory Grabenstein) escapes to the room in order to avoid contact with people at the party below. Broadway critic Ira Drew (Gene Storie) and playwright, Peter Austin (Adam Rowland) soon join the group who eagerly await the all important reviews from the New York critics. McNally holds nothing back in this scathing send up of the behind the scenes Broadway culture who live and die by the goodwill of the press.
While not the usual community theatre fare, IT'S ONLY A PLAY is a hilarious, well paced comedy. Many of the jokes are directed at acting traditions, directors, critics, actors and the theatre itself. Director Frank Benge has assembled an excellent cast of veteran actors who have the chops to take on McNally's sharp dialogue with notable aplomb. Mary Southon absolutely sparkles as the fading star actress who will do anything to claw her way to the top once more. She is not only stunningly beautiful, she glows with an inner spark that is incandescent. Rhonda Roe's newly minted Broadway producer is hilarious, misquoting virtually every show business axiom. As the bumbling, amateur, Roe overflows with anxious energy. Mani's hired help go-for has some brilliant moments as he delivers the coats of the great and the good to the bedroom. As the much hated critic, Ira Drew, Gene Storie is wonderful, earning the affection and hate of the audience simultaneously. Adam Rowland as Peter Austin, the playwright of The Golden Egg, plays the writer with heart and humor. It's Cory Grabenstein and Jeff Shaevel along with Southon, that were my favorites in an outstanding cast. As the clearly disturbed young director, Grabenstein holds nothing back in his laugh-out-loud, no holds barred performance. Shaevel as the television actor and best friend of the playwright, is magnetic, setting the pace and deftly delivering the comic goods. His Harvey Fierstein impression is worth the price of admission. Together the cast sets up the jokes and knocks them out of the park with practiced ease. Costumes by Veronica Prior are smart and beautiful. Director Frank Benge shows once more that he knows how to entertain the audience, making it look all too easy.
I give my highest recommendation to IT'S ONLY A PLAY. If you go, please be warned that the show contains HBO style language and if you're easily offended by certain four letter words, you should sit this one out. Theatre folks will find it sidesplitting and all too familiar. The only two downsides to the evening were the constant high pitch feedback from the stage speakers and the pink insulation that rained from the ceiling onto my shoulders and my hair during the show. Both were no fault of the cast, but distracted from their performance unnecessarily.
IT'S ONLY A PLAY
by Terrence McNally
Directed by Frank Benge
Sam Bass Theatre, Round Rock, TX
September 16 thru October 8
Tickets: $20 - $15, sambasstheatre.org
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission.