One of the hardest things to write is a play. One of the hardest types of plays to write is a comedy. And undeniably, the hardest type of comedy to write is one that’s funny from the get-go right up to and including its finish. Don’t Talk to the Actors by Tom Dudzick is 75% of the way there. The good thing about the 75% is that it’s going in the right direction. Though it may not start out terribly funny it ends up with a big bang. Actually we don’t really start to laugh until the entrance of the character Beatrice at the end of the first act.
With some interpolated fabrication, the play is based upon the playwright’s own experiences in the mounting of his play “Greetings” at an Off-Broadway theater in New York. “Don’t Talk to the Actors” has six characters: the playwright and his girlfriend, the director, the stage manager and two veteran actors. What's dramatized is Jerry the playwright’s first shot to reach Broadway and, as can be expected, he is an easily influenced neophyte. And though uber-efficient Stage Manager, Lucinda, warns him not to “talk to the actors”, he unfortunately casts off her expert advice. Jerry’s girlfriend Arlene is a young naif and has had a crush on leading actor Curt for years. Curt, who plays the father in the play, is a TV actor looking to enhance his own image no matter what the costs. Beatrice, a former blue comedienne, doubts her suitability for the role as the Mother and tries to insert songs and jokes into an otherwise realistic script. Mike, the director (when not obsessed at what things cost nowadays) tries to keep the cast and crew afloat amid the stormy seas of lost theater rentals and dead producers.
Ellen Ratner is full of sass and chutzpah as Beatrice Pomeroy, the comedienne who claims she stole everything she knows from Belle Barth. As Beatrice has most of the good zingers, the play really kicks into gear when she arrives on the scene. Paul Dake is equally as hammy as Curt Logan, the smarmy TV actor angling for his next series. Tall and well heeled on the outside, Mr. Dake suavely reveals what a heel the character is on the inside.Kristin Wiegand is refreshingly funny as Lucinda Shaw, the almost perfect stage manager with a relationship problem. Lauren Rooney is quite charming as the moony eyed Arlene Wyniarski smitten with the leading man. Particularly funny is her dead faint upon meeting Mr. Logan, especially since nobody on stage even notices it for a couple of minutes. Joel Malazita is quite earnest as the young, stage-struck author, but not quite as funny as one would have hoped. And the well grounded Tim Moyer is endearing as the low key, level headed director trying to keep his ship of fools off the rocks.
The cast works well together as an ensemble and the set is simple and realistic. The pacing of the show is especially good – due in no small way, I am sure, to Tom Dudzick’s direction.
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