Critics are “really failed playwrights or actors who become critics out of desperation.” – Peter Austin
A fun and gleeful time was had at Little Theatre of Virginia of Beach for It’s Only A Play. My companion Sean and I laughed at all of the inside quips over critics, pompous divas, overvalued directors and theatre in general.
Before I arrived at Little Theatre of Virginia Beach to see It’s Only a Play, I did some research on the play’s history and origins. Terrence McNally wrote It’s Only A Play and first produced it on Broadway in 1978. Irony struck when the play about a play closed because of negative reviews. McNally’s ego was severely wounded but he rolled up his sleeves and commenced to do several rewrites and various openings in 1982, 1985 and 1994. But it was the 2014 version that became a smash hit on Broadway and which starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. It is the 2014 version that you will see at the Little Theatre of Virginia Beach.
It is with the opening scene that we are introduced to James Wicker (Clifford Hoffman, who is funny and effective). Within minutes of the play’s opening scene, famous names are shamelessly dropped such as Josh Groban, Oprah, Kelly Rippa, and (Lord, help us) Ryan Seacrest all mentioned within seconds of each other. “We both dated Ellen Degeneres,” states TV actor, James Wicker (Hoffman, funny but could have expressed more vulnerability) to wannabe actor but currently the hat and coat checker, Gus (Jacob Tawil, who expresses great overeagerness and with many excellent exit lines).
Following the opening scene the play lagged a little as we are introduced to the remaining characters. My recommendation would be for faster entrances and snappier cue pickups during the first act. However, I can write that the second act was quite a joy to watch as all the actors interacted beautifully.
Julia Budder (a likeable ditzy Lynn Rollins who constantly misquotes classic movie lines) is the host for the opening night party in her Manhattan home (all scenes are placed in this setting).
Ira Drew (Robin Chapman, blessed with a beautiful speaking voice and a very funny laugh) is the critic that everyone dislikes. There were a few notable blocking issues as I could only see his profile during a few scenes.
Frank Finger (Christopher Bernhardt, an over-the-top british director) was a lot of fun to watch. I loved all of his antics such as hiding behind a curtain and draping himself with discarded clothes.
Steve Austin (Scott Rollins with superb stage presence) is the thinly disguised Terrence McCann. Austin is the heart of the play with many monologues. All of the monologues were beautifully presented but I quibble with the direction. Monologues should have an intent preferably with some interaction with the other characters or to the audience by breaking the fourth wall. I was unable to determine the intent with Austin’s monologue.
Virginia Noyes (M. Elizabeth Dickerson is the true standout) is the drug-addled diva of Broadway. Dickerson ate up every scene that she in. Her physical deterioration was a fantastic sightgag. I can write more superlatives but M. Elizabeth Dickerson is a star.
Direction by James Bryan was truly expert. There were some block blocking issues as some characters were directly behind those upstage. But it is evident that Mr Bryan knows how to cast and understands how to stage a scene.
Lighting design by Alex Mason was simplistic and yet effective. All characters in every scene were properly lit.
Set design by Donna Lawheed was very good in its layout, allowing actors to fully utilize the space. I might suggest that an actual bar could have been placed stage left so that the actors would not have to turn their backs to the audience when getting a drink.
Costume design by Lisa Rathgeber Bobotas fit the time period and the costumes were beautifully tailored.
Sound Design by Charles Owrey was expert. I could hear every character clearly even when it was a stage whisper.
Overall, I loved the time spent at Little Theatre of Virginia Beach with It’s Only A Play. I highly recommend it for those who love theatre.
Little Theatre of Virginia Beach “It’s Only A Play” by Terrence McNally through permissions granted by Dramatist Play Service, New York. Performances take place at Little Theatre of Virginia Beach , on May 17 – June 9 . Get more info, prices, and purchase tickets here or by calling 757-428-9233