Tick, Tick…BOOM! Explodes on Stage

We’ve all been there. We’re facing a landmark birthday and our BFF is on a new path and our significant other has expectations and we’re staring down a crossroads riddled with self-doubt, anticipation, enthusiasm, and fear. What are you supposed to do? What should you do? Is it ever too late?

That’s the essence of Tick, Tick…BOOM! magnificently performed at Shea’s Smith Theatre by Second Generation Theatre. It’s a three hander with a lot going on. With Sean Ryan as Jon, Leah Berst, and Joe Russi play multiple roles in the life of this aspiring composer who is facing down the days leading up to his 30th birthday.  Created by the late Jonathan Larson, it’s semi-autobiographical and wasn’t fully staged until after his way-to-early death at age 36, the day before his seminal work Rent was to open off-Broadway.

Jon is plugging away, getting ready to workshop his latest work. His girlfriend Susan is a dancer who is teaching ballet on the side. His best bud Michael, after trying his hand at acting, is a marketing executive with a BMW, fancy new digs, a corporate wardrobe and apparently few regrets about leaving the stage behind. Berst is also Jon’s mom, his agent, Karessa the ingenue in his workshop, making minor wardrobe and prop switches to emphasize her character changes. It’s her force of personality, command of her voice, and body language that put us there, though. It’s breathtaking. Equally powerful is Russi’s flexes from slick business guy to the deli clerk, and Jon’s pipe smoking dad.

Whew. Everything about the production is spot on. I couldn’t imagine a better SGT-selected cast. Ryan commands the stage, cleverly designed by Chris Cavanagh to suggest Jon’s less grand SoHo apartment, the subway, his buddy Michael’s uptown place, other places. It takes some theatre of the mind to get there, but the storytelling is so vivid, your mind’s eye doesn’t have to struggl. The score is a a winner: standouts are “Therapy,” a Jon and Susan duet as they gently explore the minefield of a dysfunctional relationship. It’s comic, and charming, and sad all at the same time; “30/90,” Jon’s ruminations on his impending birthday, Michael’s “Real Life” reflection on the choices he made that are working for him; Karessa the ingenue’s “Come To Your Senses” ballad; and Jon’s “Why” as he reflects on choices. Music director Joe Isgar and his quartet play the dickens out of this powerful music.  Lou Colaicovo’s direction makes great use of the two tier stage and the storytellers upon it.

Can I say it again? Whew. There’s more going on with this story, but I’m not about the spoil it for you. Just see it. And book your tickets now. This is the show to see as the theatre season is winding down.

Tick, Tick…BOOM! is performed in one glorious, 90-minute act. Fill your sippy cup in the lobby before you go in and then hunker in for one heck of a ride. Get tickets at www.sheas.org.


Kragtar Slays at Alleyway

OK, I’ll say it; I’m afraid of Amy Jakiel. In Second Generation Theatre’s production of Cabaret last season, her character ratted out her neighbors to the Nazis. In this season’s WNY Premiere of Kragtar! The American Monster Musical, now onstage at Alleyway Theatre, she’s pure evil as a woman nicknamed Beard who beckons her husband by patting her thigh like you’d call a dog and admits to eating a Chik Filet. She is to be feared. She is also hysterical.

Besides that, Kragtar! Is a riot of a production, packed with so many laughs and gags and ‘breaking the fourth wall’ moments that it needs to be seen twice (at least) to take it all in.  Take the best of Monty Python and amp it up with some current day news and some clever names and there you have it.  Anthony Lazzaro and Justin Gaskill are the two (gay) scientists (It’s OK, they explain it in a song) named Harry Fine and Harvey Finkler searching for this beast that they think is wreaking havoc. And then they split up: Harvey decides to walk the straight and narrow (so to speak) and marries Beard whose real name is Beatice Eden Finkler, a fine Christian woman just dripping with traditional family values. Fine and his TA Trisch (Amanda Funicello) keep up the search.  Little do they know, Kragtar has a secret all its own. Oopsy.

This is truly an ensemble piece, again in the spirit of Monty Python, which makes it very worthy of its Artie Award nom for best ensemble of a musical. Six cast members (Sarah Blewett, Emily Bassett, Jeremy Kreuzer, Nicholas Lama, Jetaun Louis, and Matthew Rittler) play multiple roles which all add to this wickedly funny dynamic, directed by Chris J Handley. Emma Schimminger had some fun with lighting and sound design that added to Tim McMath’s fun set. James Welch directed a four-piece house band for Kyle Wilson’s original music.  Beard’s “Family Values” song s a hoot and Trisch’s “When You Find Your Love” is the perfect counter in its own way which is later underscored by “Love (The Most Powerful Thing” again led by Trisch with Fine and the ensemble. And therein lies the message. Yup, real sentiment and lovely, basic truth is often hiding behind spoofs and goofiness. It’s all so very good.

You know a show is hot when more performances are added, which means Kragtar is onstage until May 20. It’s a fast paced two hours, with one intermission. Get online for tickets now: https://www.alleyway.com/

Kinky Boots Raises You Up at Shea’s 710

Well, Buffalo is a factory town. Road Less Traveled’s recent production of Sweat gave us a grim reminder of what happens when a factory is on the brink. Suffice it to say, that Buffalo hasn’t seen the likes of Price & Son, the factory at the soul of Kinky Boots, MusicalFare Theatre’s production on stage at Shea’s 710 Theatre.

The story is based on an actual situation which happened in the UK in 1999: a family-owned maker of men’s dress shoes was about to go under when the owner discovered an under-served market for fine footware: drag queens. Tweaking the business plan kept workers on at the plant and restored profitability. This inspired the 2005 film Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth which then inspired Harvey Firestein to write the stage show with Cyndi Lauper writing original music and lyrics in 2013.  As I am wont to say, I usually don’t care for movies on stage, but this show is so irrepressible, it would be hard to dislike it.  Most importantly, there’s a powerful message of inclusion, acceptance, personal freedom, and self-love that shines through, particularly in Lauper’s Tony-winning lyrics.

Everything about this production was a delight, from the cast, to the band, to the choreography and plenty of stage magic. The show opens as Papa Price (John Fredo) is extolling the virtue of traditional footware to his young son Charlie (Daniel Pitirri), while Simon’s Papa (Vincenzo McNeill) is less than impressed with his son Simon’s (Oliver Parzy-Sanders) fascination with a bright red pair of pumps. Fast forward a bunch of years, and the young adult Charlie (Steve Copps) doesn’t think that shoes are the most beautiful thing in the world, so (much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life), he leaves the family business behind for big city life. His father’s death draws him home. A chance encounter with grown up Simon, now drag queen Lola (Lorenzo Shawn Parnell)   and a conversation with one of his employees (Bethany Burrows) who is about to lose her job, spark the idea to build shoes that support a manly body type when he’s in drag. From here, the story is a really a journey, and it’s a beautiful one.

The entire cast is stellar, from the young actors playing Charlie and Simon/Lola as children to the shoe factory workers who rally to make sharp and spiky boots where there’s plenty of sex in the heel. Look and listen for Artie Award recognized actors like Charmagne Chi, Dan Urtz, Doug Weyand, and Dave Spychalski among the factory workers, and Lola’s back up singers/dancers known as the Angels in drag Marc Sacco, Johnny Kiener, Collin McKee, and David Pieffer.

Copps wins hearts as he stumbles – literally – down a non-traditional path, and it’s Parnell who puts the soul in boot making with the poignant “I’m Not My Father’s Son” and “Hold Me in Your Heart” ballads. Beautiful musical moments for sure. In between the powerful messages about inclusion and belonging there are delectably in-your-face proofs about the pure joy of loving what you do, who you are, and who you’re with on the journey. As the song says, “you change the world when you change your mind.”

Kinky Boots runs under two hours with a 15-minute intermission, to May 21, which includes some extra performances. Grab tickets fast at sheas.org.

It was Good as Hell and I Want More! Network at Kav Has Me Ranting!

When the film Network was released in 1976, I was a freshman in college majoring in communications and was a total news junkie. Cable TV was in its infancy here, the word ‘infotainment’ was unheard of,  and reality TV wasn’t invented yet.  The idea that a network news anchor would be fired, lose his cool on camera, and then morph into a cause celebre who pulled over-the-moon ratings in the hands of a program developer was just a work of fiction from Paddy Chayefsky’s pen (or maybe typewriter. Remember, no computers back then.)

Fast forward to our world of 24 hour information, abbreviated news cycles, countless ways to access information from cable stations to podcasts in the palm of our hands, citizen journalists, and other influencers. How could we have known? And how did we not?

Theatre companion and I agreed that Network on stage at D’Youville Kavinoky Professional Theatre was fascinating, fun, and just a little bit frightening in its prescience.  Lee Hall’s adaptation doesn’t stray far from Chayefsky’s original screenplay. The center of the story is Howard Beale (well played by Peter Palmisano), aging anchorman whose career and ratings are waning.  The reality of the biz means that this gets you fired. Until you are granted one last ‘goodbye’ and you use that moment to make a point with the people….and the ratings shoot up. Would Cronkite have done that? Jennings? Huntley or Brinkley? I think not.  Enter programmer Diana Christensen (Michele Roberts) who sees dollar signs with a side of edgy, exploitative entertainment. She’ll make a ‘new’ star out of Beale by letting him rant nightly on a talk show that falls outside of news. And consider the news of the day at that time:  the lingering impact of 1974’s oil crisis. Patty Hearst and her stint as a domestic terrorist. Those things were shaking up our world with the perfect fodder for Beale’s agita.

Palmisano, Roberts, and their castmates all deliver strong performances and the production itself is very good. Director Loraine O’Donnell created a real media circus on stage that was a blast to watch. Brian Milbrand’s video design (you’re watching a broadcast ‘on stage’ and pushed out on the video screen which gives you a thought-provoking perspective) was its own character and it was fun watching the screen and the stage (or was it the stage and the screen?) in your own frame.

Palmisano’s frantic pacing and yelling and lecturing were all spot on. And yes, I know there was a whole cast on stage, but wow, this his frenetic energy and call to action is what makes the show. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this adaptation kept one of the most absurd yet saddest moments in the movie, when Diana multi-tasks through perfunctory intimacy with her (married) lover. Roberts did Faye Dunaway proud.

Network is really a treat, and admittedly, I very rarely like movies put on stage. This one was quite special because it was all so unreally real. It’s a fast paced two hours with an intermission, on the air, I mean on stage until May 14. Details and tickets at www.kavinokytheatre.com.

Sweat Packs a Punch at RLTP

In Buffalo, we know what it’s like to live in a factory town. In some families, working at the plant is part of your legacy. Maybe it’s your father or uncle who put in the word that got you that job, just as his uncle or father did for him. You expect the security of having a job in a place that holds meaning. You grew up with that comfortable wage and a security blanket of benefits. A different job would be out of the ordinary, unfamiliar, maybe not in step with your family and friends. Also in Buffalo, we know what it’s like when the factories start shutting down and those good old reliable jobs go away.

That’s at the core of Sweat, the Pulitzer Award winning and Tony nominated play by Lynn Nottage, on stage now at Road Less Traveled Theater.

It’s fierce, it’s powerful, it’s emotionally draining and at almost three hours long, it’s fanny fatiguing, too.

It’s also a reminder that the human condition is resilient but also frail when threatened, and that when your work and your life are tightly woven together, any change is devastating on both the personal and professional levels.

This isn’t theatre for the faint of heart: this gritty production is reminiscent of the best days of the Subversive Theatre Collective, with its deep roots in labor and social justice storytelling.

Sweat is the story of a trio of friends – Tracey (Lisa Vitrano), Cynthia (Davida Tolbert), and Jessie (Diane DiBernardo) – and the close friends-as-family bond they formed after years of working together, celebrating birthday, nursing hangovers, and supporting each other through personal ups and downs. Tracey and Cynthia have another bond: their sons Jason (Johnny Barden) and Chris (Jake Hayes) are also pals who work together.  They all hang at Howard’s Tavern where Stan (David Mitchell) tends bar and Oscar (Alejandro Gabriel Gomez) does the cleaning up. All is well, until plant management opens a new position to someone from the floor and Cynthia earns the gig (she needs it; husband Brucie is out of work and battling some personal demons). All the while, the plant is also cutting back, moving machines out of the plant in secrecy, and the workforce walks out on strike. There’s tension. There’s solidarity. There are handouts that feel more gratuitous than supportive. And then quiet Oscar takes a non-union job and he’s no longer the almost invisible presence in the background at the bar.

Director Victoria Perez and her perfectly-cast players gave this piece a very sharp edge. Characters are transformed in the 2000 (when times are good) to 2008 (oh what a difference eight years can make) time hop. (Confused? The TV screen at the bar flashes the dates, and the characters’ demeanor and clothing and makeup changes are exquisitely subtle.) Gina Boccolucci’s bar room set is cozily seedy in the best ways. Other scenes happen downstage under tight, bright spotlight. (Confused? Watch the neon Budweiser sign at the bar. When it’s on, you’re there). Nicholas Quinn gives us some dead-on sound cues, too, as music helps fill the passage of time. I love these small details best. So well executed and evocative, just like Diane Almeter Jones’ props; every item is there for a reason. When Stan makes his point by pounding on the bar, butts pop from the ashtrays. And then Adriano Gatto choreographed a bar brawl so vivid, so raw that yes, I had one hand over my eyes. Seriously. This was the moment that changed lives forever.

Every member of this cast was rock solid, and it was Mitchell who really stands out. To say why here would be too much of a spoiler, but damn, his character’s evolution was breathtaking. Other characters grew and changed, too, but anger and struggling for peace are expected in the human condition. Stan, however, has unique challenges and Mitchell nails this brilliantly.

Admittedly, there are some hard to see moments here, and the play ran really long (theater companion and I agreed, easily 30 to 45 minutes could have been excised without sacrificing the power of this plot. Playwright Nottage’s Pulitzer win and Tony nod were both well and hard earned. Perez’s direction, the cast, and the crew live up to this story and then some.

Sweat is onstage until May 21. It runs a little over 2:30 with one intermission. Tickets and details at www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org.

Disaster! Feels So Good at MusicalFare

A pretty buttoned up reporter. A nightclub owner with daddy issues. A ditzy disco diva and her twin children. A nun with a gambling problem. What happens when they meet on a poorly constructed off-shore casino with a problematic pier? It’s sure to be a Disaster!  Disaster!, the brain-child of Broadway divo Seth Rudetsky, is making its WNY premier at MusicalFare Theatre and it’s a hoot. It’s a jukebox musical with ‘70s tunes and satirical nod to all the disaster films that kept us going to movie theatres (remember those?) before we headed off to Uncle Sam’s to dance the night away on the light floor.

The story pretty simple: Tony wants to make a bundle on a floating casino so he cuts some corners on the whole safety thang. His lady friend Jackie will be the lounge singer as long as she keeps her kids out of trouble. He hires a waiter with the moves and his friend who aspires to be the other waiter with moves and they welcome passengers like Maury and Shirl who just want to have a little fun. Of course, a local nun is convinced there’s onboard gambling so she meets guests at the dock with a cheerful “you’ll burn in hell” message. And there’s scientist on board who knows that too much tango hustling can cause tidal waves if you “Knock On Wood” too many times. Of course.

Well, if the story sounds a little thin, the killer list of fun and familiar tunes more than makes up for it. So does this sparkling (and large) cast. Stand outs are Kelly Copps as Jackie the singer. She softens her speaking voice to an impish whisper (think of Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) but boy, she’s at full-power when she sings “Saturday Night” and “I Will Survive.”  Ricky Needham is Chad the waiter, sporting a wig that looks pretty much like the hair I had in my high school senior photo. He’s shakin’ his groove thing until he runs into his ex and then the sparks and sequins fly. He does a fabulous job on the Jigsaw hit “Sky High.”  Kevin Craig is the scientist who can prove that disaster is coming and I was laughing out loud at his ‘balance beam’ walk to “Nadia’s Theme.”  Gabriella Jean McKinley is the disco queen (with her designer doggie-in-a-bag) poured into spandex and doing a fabulous job with my fave tune from ’74 “Come to Me.” Emily Yancey is a riot as the nun, and Arin Lee Dandes – everyone’s favorite eternal child – is amazing as Jackie’s twins. Yes, she plays both kids with some theatre magic and sleight of hand/s. You just have to see it. Jon May and Jennifer Mysliwy were adorable as sweethearts Maury and Shirl and their ‘bump’ to Orleans’ “Still the One” took me back to a high school dance.

Directed by Randy Kramer with Robin Barker’s choreography, every moment of Disaster! Is replete with a sparkle, sass, site gags, and tongue-in-cheek bits that were more than fine. The sisters Drozd captured the era with point perfect hair, makeup and styles (my arches tensed all over again at the site of all those platform shoes), and Chris Cavanagh’s set, lighting projection and sound designs took us back to a shinier, glittery time. Theresa Quinn and the band pulled it all together with a great hit list of tunes. I knew every word. And I sang along with absolutely no shame.

I loved the humor, the details, and all that great music. Disaster! Is a success! Get there before it all goes down May 14. And yes, I wish I still had my red leather cork-platform sling backs to wear.

Disaster! runs a little over two hours with an intermission. I love MusicalFare’s clever and informative pre-show videos when I can hear them and I still miss a real paper playbill, but since I heard a hilarious take on Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” you’re forgiven this time.

History Takes Center Stage at Irish Classical

You feel his power, his presence, as soon as he sets foot on the stage.

Detroit actor Brian Marable has immediate, full command of your attention in Thurgood, presented by Irish Classical Theatre now until April 16.

A stellar one-actor show, Thurgood  is the self-narrated story of Supreme County Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first person of color to serve as a Justice…for justice.

The set up for this script written by George Stevens, Jr. and directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, is that Marshall is returning to his Howard University alma mater to reflect on his life. Marable enters the space with a cane as support and the slow, deliberate gait of an older gentleman. As he tells his story, he’s transported back to his feisty youth, the cane is forgotten, the tonality of his voice changes, the alacrity in his storytelling becomes more vibrant.

This is fine theatre for sure. Marable is captivating and engaging, You almost wish you could ask him questions and enter a dialogue as he talks about Marshall’s family, his first marriage which ended when his wife died, his second marriage and their two children, and the shifts in our society. Marable deftly used his booming voice to illustrate the passage of time, speaking more brightly as the younger jurist and more reservedly in later years. This was a subtle yet very powerful manipulation.

The script is a social history lesson, too. Marshall the man grew up in Baltimore and had first-hand experience with segregation, which surely guided his civil rights position in later years. He’s not preaching nor dictatorial here: his passion is a sure and steady flame and Marable portrays this handsomely.

Playwright Stevens crafted the best kind of storytelling here. The history lessons are woven into the (imagined) narrative with great skill. We’re meeting the man while learning his truth and the truth of others who walk in his figurative shoes.

A simple set by David King, just-right wardrobe (a suit and jurist robe, of course) by Vivian DelBello, create the right ambiance.

A note: you’ll hear some language that may make you uncomfortable, racial slurs, and words depicting violence. This is history that is not sugar-coated.

For tickets and information, visit http://www.irishclassical.com.

All Aboard for a Murder!

Sometimes you have to stick with the classics.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was published as a novel in 1934, made into films twice, and most recently was adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. Over time and all these permutations, the story has retained its intricate web of mystery, deceit, sardonic wit, told by a complex cast of characters. All for One Productions’ latest version at Shea’s 710 Theatre captures it all on a pretty amazing stage, too.

All for One and the show’s director Kyle LoConti kept it all pretty mainstream and that simplicity was this show’s perfection. Lynne Koscielniak’s set is gorgeous: it revolves to reveal four distinct places – including the train’s dim and narrow aisle and it’s well-appointed a quite glamorous. Prop master Diane Almeter Jones and her team went for pure art deco elegance which was echoed by Lise Harty’s stunning costumes. You’re pulled into story immediately on the narrow video screen above the set which also becomes the moving train.

What’s a great set without a cast of actors in roles that fit them like fine calf skin gloves? Christian Brandjes is a marvelous Hercule Poirot, right down to the elaborate moustache. Gregory Gjurich is c’est magnifique as Monsieur Bouc, Poirot’s friend who helps get him aboard the train from Istanbul to London. Make sure you read the cast bios in the (really printed on page) playbill. Gjurich shows his devotion to his character in his entry. Lisa Ludwig is wonderfully brash as the only American, Mrs. Hubbard. Alas, there are plenty of aliases among this large cast and a couple actors who adroitly handle double roles. It’s all great fun. At the back of your mind, you know that the characters are in a world between wars, they’re fighting their inner battles, too, and yet they are swathed in a refined elegance that only can happen on a train in Europe. With murderers afoot. And revenge as a motive. Or was it?

Even if you’re blasé about having read the book, seen the movie(s), know the plot and its twists, this is mighty fine theatre. The set is an experience, the acting is superb, and whole experience is a pure delight. It’s a short run to April 2; find tickets and details at www.sheas.org.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express runs two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

“Beetlejuice” at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

Justin Collette (Beetlejuice) at Tour Company of “Beetlejuice.” Photo by Michael Murphy 2022.

A visual spectacle of elaborate lighting and effects matched with superb talent and absurd comedy, Beetlejuice opened at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre last evening. Whether or not you are a fan of the original movie, you’re in luck: Beetlejuice the musical is so much better. It brings all the best parts of the cult-classic film while also giving the story a much-needed update and adding adult humor that will have you laughing hysterically. Beetlejuice tells the story of Lydia Deets (Isabella Esler) who is a grief-stricken teen enamored by all that is strange and unusual. A couple months after the death of her mom, Lydia and her father (Jesse Sharp) move into a house that was recently vacated by couple Barbara (Britney Coleman) and Adam (Will Burton) after an unfortunate electrical accident. After being plunged into the afterlife, Barbara and Adam seek guidance from a demon named Beetlejuice (typically Justin Collette but portrayed on opening night by Matthew Michael Janisse) to get their house back and scare out the new owners. When it’s discovered that Lydia can see these ghost inhabitants while no one else can, we are taken on a whirlwind of an adventure involving the Netherworld, possession, underage marriage, and so much more!

First off, I was very surprised to see so many kids in the audience. This is definitely not a show for children and includes crude humor and language that is not for young ears. I thoroughly enjoyed how much this show pushed the enveloped and couldn’t stop laughing right from the second song, “The Whole ‘Being Dead’ Thing”. Beetlejuice immediately breaks the 4th wall and addresses the audience directly to let us know this is show about death so we better come to terms with that quick. Janisse quickly became an audience favorite with his high energy, perfect comedic timing, and kooky portrayal of Beetlejuice. I have no idea how a person could continuously portray that role night after night and imagine it must take some serious caffeine. Isabella Esler truly blew me away as Lydia. A recent high school graduate (!!!), Esler has some insane power to her voice and continued to really belt it out for the entire length of the show, one song after another. Kate Marilley as life coach Delia reminded me of Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek in her accent and mannerisms. Burton and Coleman have excellent stage chemistry as Adam and Barbara and are such a perfect contrast in character to Beetlejuice. 

One of my favorite numbers in the show has to be “Creepy Old Guy”. In the original film, Beetlejuice needs Lydia to marry him so he can be alive again (literally). The character of Lydia is estimated to be around 14-16 years old while Beetlejuice is…..well…. a creepy old guy in comparison. This is kind of brushed over in the movie and not really deemed to be too strange or gross. However, I love that the musical in contrast really leaned into the fact that the whole concept is so incredibly wrong and poked fun at itself. “Day-O” is obviously a showstopper, as well, and I’m so glad the musical recreated that classic scene from the movie so wonderfully. That song and “Jump in Line” are sure to be in your head as you leave the theatre!

The visuals in the show really appeal to the senses and are quite a spectacle to take in. There are many, many, many set changes as we bounce from scene to scene. However, they are all executed so quickly and seamlessly, it’s easy to overlook. Projections are creatively utilized over the scenery, curtains, and backdrop to really bring the stage to life in an interesting way. The large, angular arch that frames the stage acts as a huge lighting effect with different colors, flashing, and strobing throughout the show to achieve various desired effects. Fog is also used and even elements of fire in different forms of stage magic. Your senses are sure to be stimulated!

Overall, this show is incredibly entertaining and has such a fun atmosphere. It’s showing at Shea’s through the 26th and has a run time of 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Be…….tter get your tickets soon!

For more information, click here.

The Play That Goes Wrong Gets It Absolutely Right

Here’s what I love about the WNY theatre community: there are the classics; there are the thought-provoking in-your-head-dramas; there are the social justice productions; there are soul-lifting musicals galore; and then there are the shows that are so silly and funny you laugh all the way home. And that, my friends, is The Play That Goes Wrong, onstage now at D’Youville Kavinoky Theatre.

It’s one of those “plays about a play” that gives the audience a glimpse behind the curtain at theatre’s inner workings. Although in this show, theatre’s inner workings aren’t working very well. This theatre company’s newest production is “The Murder at Haversham Manor” and at first, it’s the set that’s suffering from mantle pieces falling off and the director’s Duran Duran boxed set among the missing. And then the corpse isn’t properly dead. And the prop mistress is  reluctantly recast and eventually gets charmingly stage struck when the ingenue is suddenly stricken. Well, you get the picture.

What makes this production a cut above the usual play-within-a-play hijinks routines is the attention to detail all around. From Dyan Burlingame’s clever two-level set (spoiler alert, pieces break off a lot), costumes designed by Andrea Letcher to Donny Woodard’s collection of props, these fine points make a delightful production all the more special. Chris Cavanagh technical direction and trick creation (that’s what the program says) is pure stage magic.

The “actors” in this ersthwhile theatre company all play dual roles here. Brian Mysliwy is at his best as Inspector Carter whose searching for the killer. Kodi James’ best moments are as the deceased, and no, he’s not just laying there playing dead. He has one-eye-open (literally!) on what’s going on and he’s spot on. Don Gervasi is a riot as Thomas Colleymoore, resident rich guy in the manor. Jacob Albarella’s servant role is wonderfully understated and a snotty step out of any British drama on public broadcasting. It’s Steve Copps in the triad role that had me in stitches. His smallest part as Arthur the Gardener was the one to watch. He muggs for the audience. He smiles at the spotlight. He’s so good at being so bad. Alexandria Watts and Afrim Gjonbalaj as the stagehands were the perfect deadpan foils for the stage chaos of this acting troupe.

What I love best is that the show makes no apologies for what it is: a beautifully done send up of a theatre company that takes itself oh so seriously as stage disaster happens all around. It’s funny, it’s relaxing, and it’s just what we need in our theatre landscape right now. Kudos to directors Michael Galante and Adriano Gattos for assembling this just right onstage and offstage team.

The Play That Goes Wrong runs two hours with a 15-minute intermission to March 19. Make the time, see the show, laugh ‘til you can’t laugh anymore.