Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Understudy

photo: Carol Rosegg

Although slight and weakly dependent on contrivances (you'll nearly use up fingers counting how many times the characters forget that their "private" conversations are being heard over the loudspeaker) this backstage comedy has the potential to be more diverting and fun than this production allows. The premise is tasty - we're at a put-in rehearsal where a legit actor has been hired to understudy a movie star - and there are fun if predictable barbs at how today's celeb-crazed culture has trickled down to the theatre biz. But the production is a non-starter with the actors steered toward choices that slow the show to a crawl. Justin Kirk seems the wrong variety of actor to play the understudy - he's busy mining it for the real when what is needed is a full-out ham, the kind of childish self-involved flibbertigibbet who could jilt a finance without a word with the explanation that he's "crazy". (Reg Rogers played the role at Williamstown.) Mark Paul Gosselaar (of "Saved By The Bell" fame) proves to be stageworthy and game, but some of his choices are contradictory, as if it was not firmly decided whether the movie star is a hot dumb fool or an intellectual trapped by his career. Julie White knows better than just about anyone else in the world how to throw a line in the air so that it flies but after a while you wish she had been given more to catch.

1 comment:

Cameron Kelsall said...

Kirk=woefully miscast. White=miscast in a role that was written for her. Gosselaar=fine, but nothing to work with. The play=Rebeck's worst work to date, and that's saying something.

My review will be up in a day or two.