If this was a theater review, how would it begin? Maybe by introducing the play… Playmasters production of THE PLAY’S THE THING opened this weekend to a room full of red hatted and wind blown spectators.
The curtain opened on a handsomely furnished set just as three gentlemen entered wearing dashing tuxedos. As two playwrights and one composer, the conversation quickly turned to theater, and “if this were a play…” how would it begin? They took this opportunity to introduce themselves in the most straightforward way, no sprinkling it into conversation, just coming right out and cracking the fourth wall a bit to let the audience know who we were dealing with.
I’ve always thought this kind of writing cheated audiences out of seeing the story unfold naturally. Instead, we get hit with a lot of information up front, and not in the most exciting way. Luckily, the introductions stopped with the three men, and the action picked up when we got to eavesdrop on their noisy neighbors.
As for the cast of characters in this play within a play, no one is a stranger to theater. Sandor Turai, played by Joe Mattern, is a genius playwright who seems to be the ring leader of this dramatic group. Fellow playwright and collaborator, Mansky, played by Dave Pingitore, gives a nice balance between Sandor’s wit and dry humor and the overwhelming lovesickness of young composer Albert Adam, played by Glen Calhoun.
Only divas can get away with wearing bright green eyeshadow to bed, and from the conversations between Ilona and Almandy, played by Kathleen Gaynor and Joe Adams, I wondered why Ilona was the only one with it on. These two kicked the dramatics up a few notches, and really brought the play to life in the second act. Joe Adams gave Almandy so much energy and has a real talent for remembering names. I also applaud him for not holding back in Act 2, and really letting go at times when others might have forced it. Maybe since this was a play within a play he felt the need to supersize the drama. Whatever it was, it worked.
Rounding out the cast was the humble butler, Johann Dwornitschek, played by Hans Peters. After triple checking the spelling of the name myself, I can understand the difficulty Sandor had remembering it, but what the character lacks in name recognition he makes up for in likability.
Miss Mell, played by Heather MacHenry, wore many hats both on and off the stage. Not only is Mell the secretary, props master and token applauder on stage, but MacHenry produced, stage managed and set constructed/decorated the show. A coincidence? Probably not. Having witnessed Ms. MacHenry’s work in other Playmasters shows, I saw first hand what a production powerhouse she really is.
I have to agree with the buzz from the audience that the show is “fun,” “cute,” and has “lots of good characters,” even if you don’t realize it until the second act. But look on the bright side, you get two plays for the price of one, and in this economy, who can beat that?
THE PLAY’S THE THING
by Ferenc Molnar
adapted by P. G. Wodehouse
Directed by Kathy Garofano
February 18 – March 6, 2011
Bensalem, PA 19020