Review: TRACY JONES at JCC Centerstage Theatre

Now through March 20th.

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In keeping with its tradition of spotlighting new plays and emerging playwrights, in addition to the stalwarts that theatre audiences know and love ("Little Shop of Horrors" is next on the docket), Rochester's JCC Centerstage Theatre launched its production of "Tracy Jones" on March 5th, a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere written by Stephen Kaplan. It's a play filled with laughs, tears, and high-octane anxiety that you don't want to miss.

Tracy Jones (Erin-Kate Howard) is hosting a party at the Jones Street Bar and Grill: The place for Wings and Things. To be clear, the party is NOT taking place at the more popular Jones Street Bar and Grill location at the mall, and to be even clearer, only women named Tracy Jones can attend the party. Guests will first be given name tags, at which point Tracy will chuckle with the guest about also being named Tracy. Then drinks will be served, followed by food, followed by a PowerPoint presentation about the name Tracy Jones.

This neuroticism is the essence of Tracy, who is having a major life crisis. Her job at the bank is taking her nowhere, her panic attacks are getting worse, and having such a common name is giving her an identity crisis. With everything spiraling out of control around her, it's time to find something she can take control of. That's when it hits her; she's going to throw a party to celebrate every woman named Tracy Jones. After an extensive marketing campaign that included tracking down others by the same name, posters and a Facebook event, the party is finally here. Over the course of this 100 minute one-act play we see Tracy unravel along with, and at the hands of, the other Tracy Jones' (Vicki Casarett and Christopher Conway), frantically spill a lot of Diet Coke, and butt heads with the unnamed but aggressively chipper Personal Party Server/Host with the Most (Natalia Stornello).

The JCC's production of "Tracy Jones" is one of those rare theatrical treats: it's a brilliantly-written play, masterfully directed (kudos Lindsay Warren Baker), featuring an insanely talented cast. It's pretty rare to be treated to the trifecta of excellence in writing, directing, and performing all in one production, especially in community or non-equity theatre. While the audience was small at the Saturday evening premiere that I attended (likely attributable to lingering COVID anxiety more than anything), you wouldn't have known it by the volume and consistency of laughter throughout the performance. Not only is the writing of "Tracy Jones" so unique and poignant, hitting on themes of friendship, loss, and loneliness via slapstick-y physical comedy, but every member of the ensemble so wonderfully magnified the essence of their character; Tracy #1's anxiety and bitterness, Tracy #2's loneliness and mystique, and Tracy #3's timidity and brokenness. A special shoutout to Natalia Stornello (Personal Party Server/Host with the Most), a comedic standout from the cast who---I didn't realize until reading the playbill---is only a high school junior! And to top it off, the show's design team couldn't have done a better job at recreating the kitschy hodgepodge look and feel of a chain restaurant; it almost made me hungry for overpriced appetizers.

"Tracy Jones" is an uproariously funny new play that expertly marries the aesthetics and comedic beats of a 1980's sitcom with weightier themes that all of us struggle with every day. It's playing at JCC's Centerstage Theatre until March 20th, for tickets and more information click here.

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From This Author - Colin Fleming-Stumpf

Colin Fleming-Stumpf is a lover of all things theatre and performing arts. A native of Rochester, Colin has acted on stages across Western New York and is active in the local theatre community as a pe... (read more about this author)


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