Baking up the past
By Paul Atreides
Author, playwright Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com
Writing is a very solitary profession. Whether creating fiction, or non-fiction, for stage or screen, it’s a long and often lonely process. It requires feedback from other creatives in the same field, and damn near constant tweaking to make the piece sizzle, to resonate.
The Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) holds an annual New Works Competition and provides playwrights an opportunity to do all of the above; to have their work read and possibly produced. Winning offers the chance to see what works, what doesn’t, and what interpretation a complete stranger might bring to the script.
The 2023 winner, The Lost Virginity Tour, written by Cricket Daniel and directed by David Ament, is now playing in the Fischer Black Box. The conceit of the play is that one’s past may very well inform their future if they dare to look over a shoulder. Here, that set-up takes too long to establish as four members of the Happy Trails Senior Resort Community Baking Club decide to take a road trip to the locations where they each lost their virginity.
The script has some snappy dialogue but could also use cutting and tightening. For instance, a flashback phone call Kitty (Barbara King) has with her mother (provided in voice-over). The call isn’t necessary to the character, or to the plot. What transpired has already been made clear through previous dialogue. King brings it all across perfectly clearly, not only in delivery but with body language.
It's not all fun and games. Viola (Rhonda Goldstein) is a big and brash Jersey girl–think Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. Viola has been hiding from the truth for years that she didn’t give up her virginity willingly. While the cliché of it makes it easy to fit into the plot, something about it doesn’t ring true. Either the script needs a better transition, or Goldstein didn’t deliver it.
The most fun comes from Teresa Fullerton as Rita. The character comes across as the most thought-out and consistent which is what brings believability. The story of her first time is honest and hilarious and Fullerton’s timing is spot on. The dialogue crackles and has a real snap.
The last stop on the tour belongs to Elaine (Sherri Brewer) at a mountain cabin. Brewer brings the humor but also manages to deliver some touching moments as she realizes she gave up on that first love. Yet it feels contrived in order to provide the expected happy ending. There was one place in that final scene that would have provided the perfect and, moreover, funny “Blackout” end. Daniel might want to revisit that and cut the unnecessary ones that don’t deliver.
The production values are fairly solid but details matter. The use of a cookie tin for the Time Capsule fits the idea of the Baking Club but being all bright and shiny after 30+ years of being buried under a rock kills the suspension of disbelief.
Despite the flaws, I urge you to support the program and the playwright. But, the subject matter is enough to sell tickets and the remaining performances are very close to being sold out.
What: The Lost Virginity Tour
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through May 28
2 p.m. Saturday, May 27
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets: $20 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Grade: *** Satisfying
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: David Ament; Set Design: Chris Davies; Lighting Design: David “Lep” Morey; Stage Manager: Belle Rivas