★★☆☆☆ - Still Hungry
Husband and wife playwriting teams have been around for, well, decades. Some of the best relationship plays have come out of those unions. “Weekend Comedy,” by Sam and Jeanne Bobrick, is along those lines. As in all comedy, there’s truth behind the laughter. The characters here are stereotypes, but the Bobricks have provided a fun, breezy script with some decent barbs tossed around to make us laugh. Comedy is serious business and a lot harder to pull off than drama.
The play is about growing older, getting comfortable in a life that has been built slowly, carefully over the years. It’s obvious Michael J. Brazier, helming the production for Theater in the Valley (TITV), knows the material, because, for the most part, he’s done a respectable job.
The cast is lead by Jim Williams, playing the loving and curmudgeonly Frank. Williams has been around the theatre scene for, well, decades. The script makes him the straight man and he does it well. He’s always in the moment, and uses his instrument to full advantage. His ability to react to his fellow cast members without being obvious he’s acting is one of the joys of watching him ply his craft. He kept raising the stakes of the conflict making his performance believable.
Lyn Daugherty does the opposite in playing wife Peggy, who’s looking to put some sizzle into the marriage. She gets to deliver the snappy one-liners, but lacks the comedic timing to pull them off. Rather than well-timed, organic reactions everything comes across planned, staged, rehearsed. Most lines and reactions are delayed, which kill the jokes. She threatens, “I’m going to strangle you!”, delivering the line and then lurching across the stage as if she can’t do them simultaneously.
Marcus Martinez plays Tony to Tabitha Stewart’s Jill. They’re the young couple who get to teach Peggy and Frank how to find the spontaneity again, while being taught the value of familiarity in a long-term relationship. Both do well in bringing their characters to life, though, at times, they look as if they’re stuck in place. Jill benignly sits on the couch moving to confront Frank. Tony delivers a well-done monologue front and center rather than head-on. When people make a point the stakes raise, they pursue rather than avoid. But, those are issues of staging, not emoting.
Production values are a mixture of hit and miss. The rustic cabin set is well done, and dressed appropriately. Props are real - when coffee is poured, it’s real; when eggs are cooked, it happens in real time; when bags of groceries are handled, there are food goods in them. Costumes are all fitting for the present day setting. It’s the execution which fails.
Small details matter. An unopened bottle of champagne is still on the kitchen table after a night of drunkenness blamed on the consumption of two-and-a-half of the three stated in dialogue. A box of cereal sat untouched, and never referred to, on the kitchen table during the entire production. Williams was left alone on stage for several minutes pacing under lighting meant for actors to find their way onto the stage. But, the worst of it was Daugherty getting into place at the top of Act Two: The house lights are on, she got into place, the house lights and stage lights went out, a glow came up for Williams to find his spot, the stage went black, then the lights popped up to begin the act.
Despite the issues - technical and otherwise - the production delivers a mildly amusing evening.
On a side note: Theatre is an important part of our community. According to a recent Facebook post by Troy Heard, producing and artistic director of the Onyx Theatre, there are over 60 companies delivering entertainment and educational value throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Each one serves a different function, filling a need within a particular niche. To lose any one of them would be a shame. TITV is the only one serving the Henderson-Boulder City area.
Despite announcing a great line-up for the 2016-2017 season, the company may not survive that long. Prior to the show, it was brought to my attention that the company is facing dire financial difficulty. The small Jackpot Grant from the Nevada Arts Council helped but isn’t nearly enough. Sweet Tomatoes is holding a fundraiser for them on Thursday, June 23, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm. 15% of sales generated by Theatre in the Valley will be donated to the organization. Of course, direct donations to help them pay the rent would be graciously appreciated.
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What: Weekend Comedy
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 19
Where: Theatre in the Valley, 10 West Pacific St, Henderson
Tickets: $10 - $15 (www.theatreinthevalley.org, 702- 558-7275)
Grade: ** Still Hungry