★★☆☆☆ - Still Hungry
I have to be honest, to do otherwise is to cheat potential patrons as well as the production.
For various reasons the show wasn’t ready to open. The men of the cast needed to have their scripts in their hands for opening night of “Doubles,” now in performances at Theatre in the Valley. Technical glitches with lights and sound still have to be worked out.
It’s a tough business model when you’ve announced months in advance but, when you control your own venue, you can postpone. In the short term it will be a hit in the cash register; in the long run it will pay off with consistently improved fare.
Director Maggie Saunders went with non-traditional casting that works extremely well. And, her actors were more ready than they realize – with few exceptions, they rarely needed the scripts. And there were flashes of what the show will be once they’ve been off-book and can really delve into character and situation.
Jim Williams, as Lennie, has a leg up because of his years of experience on the stage. He’s at ease; he stayed in the moment even when he had to peek at the script. Lennie is a grumpy old, crotchety guy still caught up in locker room antics looking to antagonize his friends, and Williams is having fun with it. By contrast, in a scene where he pours his heart out to Heather (Anastasia Valentine), the lone female, Williams brought a pathos to the stage that allowed us to see the man under the façade.
The youngest member of the tennis foursome is played by Chris Carapucci. His Guy is level-headed, and consistent in demeanor, and Carapucci does a fine job, though his limp from a wrenched ankle disappeared much too fast. His scenes with Williams are his best, particularly the final one where Guy finally lets go of his inhibitions.
The monotonous delivery of Corwin “Corey” Newberry as George spoke of being severely under-rehearsed. Newberry’s heart attack scene fell flat, and not only because of his level of portrayal. The rest of the cast failed to exhibit the kind of emotion to lead us to believe their friend may be about to die.
D’Vante Rayne brought a bravado to his role of Arnie. Rayne managed to show a multi-faceted character, though delivery stuttered at times as he searched for a line. And, you have to hand it to him—ripped body aside—he’s the only one who dared to be dressed in only a towel when the situation called for it. That showed commitment to character, to the craft.
We’ve all seen a glad-hander like Chuck; they’re either over the top or mutterers. Blake Spataro gave a middle-of-the-road delivery on the walk-through lines as he greeted the other men. I’m a stickler for details; they enhance the suspension of disbelief. Going into the showers fully dressed and returning the same without even wet hair or a damp towel; coming from the shower, as Rayne does, with a completely dry body yanks us right out of the moment. In one scene, Arnie chases Lennie to throw water on him—but the can was bone dry.
The set design by Clay Kuykendall and Rick Bindhamer is well thought out, putting us into the locker room of the Norwalk Racquet Club as lockers lined the walls with benches down left and right. The one jarring flaw was the standard wood door and residential doorknob for the Steam Room entrance. A sheet of frosted plexiglass would’ve served the purpose and kept us in the scene.
For all of that, the production had enough glimpses of promise throughout proving that, with enough rehearsal, this cast is capable of delivering a solid show.
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays, through March 19
Where: Theatre in the Valley, 10 West Pacific St, Henderson
Tickets: $10 - $15 (www.theatreinthevalley.org, 702- 558-7275)
Producer: Theatre in the Valley; Director: Maggie Saunders; Set Design: Clay Kuykendall, Rick
Bindhamer; Lighting and Sound: Rick Bindhamer; Props: Lois Brown, Joan Vogel; Production
Manager: Megan Riggs; Stage Manager: Joan Vogel