by David Bradford

Courtney Wallace as Jacie and Mike Freebery as Adam in Chapel Street Players' production of COMIC POTENTIAL, running in Newark DE through December 4.

COMIC POTENTIAL, the title of the current offering from Chapel Street Players in Newark, DE, pretty well sums it up. The full-length comedy written by British playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn is a curiously interesting play with a seemingly absurd plot. Set in a future time when androids are common, it is essentially a love story between a human and an android. Actor androids, or “actoids”, are used in the production of television shows, particularly low budget soap operas such as “Hospital Hearts”. This soap is directed by formerly famous movie director “Chance” Tate. His only crew members are his programmer Prim and his tech Trudi. When his domineering Regional Manager Carla arrives on set with Adam, the nephew of the company’s owner and a huge fan of Tate’s, things get interesting. Adam takes a liking to Jacie, an actoid who seems different from the rest, setting off a series of events both funny and poignant.

Mike Freebery could not have been a more perfect choice for the role of Adam. He looked and acted every bit of the aspiring writer and movie and comedy buff that he was supposed to be. Freebery appeared a little uncomfortable early in the show, but fell right into the role once Adam clearly became a major focus of the show.

Courtney Wallace also turned in a fine performance as the actoid Jacie. It is a difficult line to walk between a robotic like android and one that is clearly expressing intense emotion, but Wallace managed walk perfectly down that line.

Connie Regan (“Prim”) and Sandy Scott (“Trudi”) were very convincing TV crew members who were used to dealing with their capricious boss. That boss, Chance, is a frustrated, bored, alcoholic who knows his career is over and yet still fondly remembers the good old days. The job of playing Chance was handed to genius comic actor Ron Ozer. Ozer has performed admirably in other comic roles, but I am afraid this role was not a good fit for his comic stylings. His over the top portrayal seemed to be trying to push the comedy in what was already an absurd setting. Unfortunately, that choice had the opposite effect of its desire. It became an anchor on what was otherwise a pretty good Act I. In Act II, when Ozer’s character appeared a lot less, the show really took off. Chance says to Jacie in Act I that in comedy “..less is more!” I suggest that director Joseph Pukatsch and Ozer consider Chance’s advice.

That being said, I could not find fault in any others of the remaining cast. Cindy Starcher played a delightfully despicable Carla, while Gene Boneker played a likeable company owner. His “mouthpiece” Marmion was filled quite nicely by Scott Pruden.

The remainder of the cast, Bill Startcher, Gina Bogino, Michael Herr, Colin Antes, and Samantha Kaiser, filled various other roles quite well. Kathleen Kimber, in particular, displayed her comic variety, going from a prim and proper boutique clerk in one scene, to a hard as nails NY hooker just a few scenes later. Brilliant stuff.

Despite the crazy premise of the show, it truly holds a lot of COMIC POTENTIAL. You will laugh! Plus, there is a certain joy in seeing so many actors performing at the top of their game. I suggest stopping into Newark and catching this show before it is gone!

by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Joseph Pukatsch
November 19 – December 4, 2010
Chapel Street Players
27 North Chapel St.
Newark, DE

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