ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
And Away We Go
By Elyse Sommer
Many of these characters are based on real people (for example the British Burbages), others are invented. All have been employed by McNally to present an entertaining insider's peek at the backstage doings of various theater companies through the ages — the Theatre of Dionysus in 438 B.C., the Old Globe in 1610, the Royal Theater of Versailles in 1789, the Moscow Art Theatre in 1896 and the Coconut Grove (Florida) Playhouse in 1956 and a present day resident company.
McNally's point can be summed up with the proverbial "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Actors no longer perform in carefully constructed masks and women have broken through the the barrier against their performing or playwriting. But new, and especially experimental plays, still tend to have a tough time competing at the ticket booth against crowd pleasers. Company managers still rely on patrons of the arts with deep pockets to keep them in business.
The play is a natural fit for this resident acting company with its long history of dedication to good theater and reliance on support from generous sponsors. Thus the play astutely begins with the cast members introducing themselves, stepping forward one at a time, kissing the stage they love and briefly introducing themselves. No sooner said and, like the title, away we go, following them back to their historic forbears, and ultimately back to the present.
As directed by Jack Cummings III, new to the Pearl but well known to fans of his enterprising Transport Company, this backstage journey is lots of fun. It might have been helpful to fit a screen on which to project the transitions from one era to another but attentive audience members will catch on to who's who and where pretty fast. The actors zip effortlessly from role to role and time period to time period. As we've come to expect, the Pearl regulars all deliver their lines with gratifying clarity that would reach to the last rows of a larger theater. The two Pearl newcomers here, Donna Lynn Champlin and Micah Stock, honor that tradition. Both are terrific. I've seen and enjoyed Champlin before, but Stock is a new to me. He's a charmer with great comic flair.
I could easily turn this review into a little book of Mr. McNally's many hilarious zingers alluding to past and present plays. With Shakespeare lighting up many marquees this season and Beckett's Waiting for Godot coupled with Pinter's No Man's Land ( Curtainup Review) a hot Broadway ticket, the above quoted putdown of the ever popular Bard and the initial thumbs down response to Beckett's play, the Moscow and Coconut Grove episodes were particular funny bone ticklers.
While McNally missed mentioning Harold Pinter and his pauses, his Godot riffs include an outraged fictitious audience membenor who declares "I want the last two hours of my life back." She was sorry not to have left at intermission as many others did since didn't improve and it all came down to watching "two men who stood around waiting for someone who never ca me for two"acts until someone merciful decided it was over and the lights came up." The playwright also cooked up a funny bit for that Godot flop, in which he has Bert Lahr's wife hilariously describe her life as the actor's spouse to company members and tell them that he's still recovering from the poor reception to the play (Lahr actually starred in Godot's short-lived premiere, but on Broadway).
I suppose And Away We Go will appeal mostly to frequent theater goers who will "get" all the allusions. But then the Pearl as usual includes helpful, interesting and informative background notes in its program.