BWW Reviews: SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT is a Riotously Funny Evening of Farce and Laughter
SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT belongs to that class of backstage comedies like NOISES OFF and FASHION: THE MUSICAL where the audience sees an actor playing an actor who is playing a character in a show. SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT first debuted in 2008 in Los Angeles and this production marks the first time it has been seen in Texas. Usually, these shows are about the performers plowing ahead in the face of everything under the sun going disastrously wrong. This variation on that theme is written by Greg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke, writers of the film "Meet the Parents". Glienna & Clarke take this genre to the max by having a fake "program" that wraps around the actual program and a pre-show that starts the moment you get your ticket. Once you've been asked "Have you had your flu shot?" the show has begun.
Surgical mask in hand (if you say 'no', like me), you are lead into the theatre, where actors are warming up, ushers are offering hand sanitizer and every aisle is flanked by boxes of tissue and hand sanitizer. It is obvious chaos is ensuing inside the Merrillville Merry Arts Players ranks. I advise you arrive early to fully enjoy the pre-show that is going on and to spend some time reading the hilarious "fake" program.
The set-up for the performance you will witness is made clear in the curtain speech given by Meredith Lipschitz-Sinclair, the egocentric star and director of the play (played by Georgia Medler). It appears that the flu has put 19 of the 23 cast members out sick with the remaining cast members determined that "the show must go on".
What ensues is about 2 hours of hilarious farce including wrong lighting and sound cues, missing props, and just about everything that could go wrong doing just that. I don't want to go too far into the plot or twists here because I don't want to spoil the fun.
Director Jeff Davis has done a great job here of keeping this moving like a deranged chain reaction car crash. He has assembled a solid cast with some standout performers. It's a tricky business playing two characters at once and some of this ensemble excelled at it.
Dave Lovelace is hilarious as Thom Elam who takes on multiple characters (sometime on the spot) throughout the evening. By the time he has to fill in for the actor who was playing one of the detectives in Act One, I was in tears watching him try to handle a script, a steering wheel and binoculars all at the same time - he has some serious comedy chops. Mindy Rast-Keenan as Joanne Brody, a mother who ends up playing her sick daughter's role at the last minute, is quite good and her melt-down in Act Two was hysterical. Tiffany Schulze as Megan Moorhead is absolutely delightful. It isn't easy to keep up the shell of someone horrifically ill with the flu but never once did she drop that while delivering a wonderfully convincing performance. I also really enjoyed Lawrence Maddox as Roger Remnik, playing a recovering alcoholic who accidently gets a prop bottle containing actual booze. Too many times when someone is required by a script to be drunk we see them 'act' it. I bought his drunk completely. It was perfectly modulated, which when playing a farce, could easily go too far.
While I enjoyed Georgia Medler's performance as Meredith Lipschitz-Sinclair, I would have liked to see a clearer delineation between when she was performing her role and when she was the megalomaniacal star/director of the Merrillville Merry Art Players. I didn't see a build to her frustration as the show progressed. This would help the audience more clearly know when something was going wrong. I also had a very difficult time understanding Thomas Ainsworth. The accent he was doing made many of his lines just unintelligible. These are, however, minor points in a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
This holiday season, treat yourself to an evening where all you have to do is sit back and laugh at SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT... it's quite possibly the best gift you could give yourself.
SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT by Greg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke
Running time: Approximately One Hour & 50 minutes with one intermission
SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT, produced by Agape Actors Co-op, at East View High School Black Box Theatre (4490 East University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626) Dec. 11th - 21st, 2014. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets: www.agapeactors.com