Nov 11, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
As rookie playwright Jerry Przpezniak prepares for his first Broadway rehearsal, the older and wiser director offers some advice.
“Don’t talk to the actors,” he tells the young wordsmith. “That’ll keep you out of trouble.”
“Don’t Talk to the Actors” – a 2007 comedy by Buffalo-born playwright Tom Dudzick – opened Nov. 9 as the first full-length show staged by the newly named Central New York Playhouse at Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt. It’s good advice. Talking to the actors can only lead to trouble as the unfolding farce ably attests.
The actors in this case are the fading blonde bombshell Beatrice Pomeroy played by Nora O’Dea and the flamboyant former TV star Curt Logan played by Lanny Freshman. Beatrice beats the drum for more comic lines to be added to Jerry’s script, while Curt craves a deeper, darker character arc. As he desperately tries to defend his dialogue, Jerry – played by a wide-eyed Maxwel Anderson – strenuously objects to Beatrice’s ad-libbing and Curt’s complaints.
For a while, it looks as if Jerry’s play, “Tuning Pianos,” will sound decidedly off-key.
Of course, complications ensue. Jerry’s naïve fiancée, Arlene – played by Lynn Barbato King – has a crush on Curt and immediately mistakes his comradeship for courtship. The rumpled yet compulsive stage manager – British expatriate Lucinda Shaw played by Heather Roach – breaks up with her bothersome boyfriend via Bluetooth and suddenly transforms herself into a stunning looker with a well-focused work ethic during the final scene.
Meanwhile, the director of “Tuning Pianos” – another Buffalo refugee named Mike Policzek played by Keith Arlington – suggests some “judicious pruning” of Jerry’s play. Not only is Mike challenged to bring the two-person play to life, he’s also challenged to dissuade his cast and crew from sabotaging the show. And that’s even before money and venue troubles materialize to plague the production.
Along the way, O’Dea and Freshman each turn in amusing performances with dead-on send-ups of theatrical stereotypes. O’Dea’s especially fetching as a crusty, once- lusty lounge singer who owes more to Mae West and Rusty Warren than to Sarah Bernhardt. Employing a trenchant Manhattan accent, O’Dea’s Beatrice loudly complains that Broadway has devolved into a kind of Disneyland. “You can’t even find a hooker on the street,” she bemoans. “There are girls dressed like hookers, but they’re tourists. It’s all mixed up!”
Freshman’s Curt is an egomaniacal entertainer, more impressed with himself than anyone else is. “Never fear, Logan’s here,” he exclaims upon his Act 1 entrance. He deftly handles Arlene’s romantic attentions without seriously seducing the Buffalo gal, but he uses her infatuation to finagle a rewrite of Jerry’s “boring” play.
Arlington’s director is a bit of a scatterbrain, but he holds everything together by remaining above all the backstage hullabaloo and even manages to inject a hint of pathos into the denouement.
Real-life director Dan Stevens clearly enjoys funny plays about plays. He recently helmed Appleseed Productions’ “The Real Inspector Hound,” a comedy about two theater critics who get caught up in the action of a whodunit that they’re reviewing. In “Don’t Talk to the Actors,” Stevens wisely keeps the spotlight on the two aging actors, and O’Dea and Freshman reward him by rising to the occasion with plenty of wit and a pinch of warmth.
“Don’t Talk to the Actors” continues its run at CNY Playhouse, near the Macy’s entrance at Shoppingtown Mall, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15, 16 and 17 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, and at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24. Tickets cost $20 for the show only, or $35 for dinner and show at Friday and Saturday performances. The 6:30 p.m. dinners are catered by Cathy’s Corner Café; 885-8960; cnyplayhouse.com.
The CNY Playhouse, headed by artistic director Dustin Czarn, was previously known as Not Another Theater Company.