and, it got broken. A little bit.
I hit up both Southside Theatre Guild (Fairburn) and Newnan Theatre Company for their current shows.
At Southside, the show was the ever-lastin’ favorite, Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, who is surely retired and is now living off his royalities from this script. Sure I’ve seen it. Of course. It’s a classic now, though I’m old enough (yikes) to remember the original production. And if by some weird hole in the universe you haven’t seen this show, well you need to. The all female cast of the show (unlike the movie) feature some of the best comic characters of the last few decades. I’ll say this for the Southside production, it was pretty well cast. Gloria Wright as Ouiser is the last to make her entrance but was oh so worth the wait. She’s the crazy, eccentric character that we love to hate to a T… and speaking of T’s, DeeDee Carr was a fine Truvy. Jane Hives as Clairee and Heather May as M’Lynn could have had more energy. Ellie Schwartz as Shelby had the energy but lacked focus. But Rebekah Larsh as Annelle presented an understated performance that was pretty spot-on. My biggest problem with this production – I’m gonna put on the shoulders of the director Will Evans.
We’ll call it the pitfall of directing a classic comedy. The script is funny. It’s got all these great lines and zingers. But comedy is hard, folks; it’s hard. And something I see over and over is the cast delivering a line and then pausing for the inevitable laugh that follows. This production was paced so slowly that it was frankly, deadly. The show’s got to move; this one got stuck under the dryer and stayed there. Though the set, designed by Drew Dayton, was just fine.
Then, over at Newnan it was THANKYOU JESUS a brand new show. Another comedy called Kong’s Night Out by Jack Neary. The premise is smart: what might have happened to the people involved and, a few that weren’t, on the night that King Kong is exhibited to the public. It’s a charming conceit and Mr. Neary makes the most of it. His characters are great too: the overbearing mother who’s also a strip tease artist, played very nicely by Sarah Lees; her boy, failed producer and purveyor of questionable theatrical taste; his wandering wife and a naive young niece. Oh, and there’s a literate gangster and a money man with the most bizarre accent I’ve ever heard – Swedish chef meets Beeker and neither of them can be understood. I’m serious – half the time I had no idea what Russ Moore as Sig Higginbottom was saying.
Our ‘hero’ is Myron Siegel, erstwhile producer, ever hopeful for a hit. He’s onto a great idea but is about to be upstaged by Carl Dennam’s big new secret act and that’s Kong. Myron is nervously played by Josh Hendricks, who is a good actor; I’ve seen him do really good work before. Unfortunately, not here.
This show is in essence a bedroom farce, just one with a giant monkey. Doors slamming, people coming and going, narrow misses and mistaken meanings. The key to this kind of comedy is timing, of course. Entrances and exits and even dialogue have to be spot on and split second. Blocking has to be tightly directed, always relevant and there was far too much wandering around the stage to suit the scene.
Again, I’m going to put the responsibility for what was less than great on the director, Joseph Moore. This was a cast and crew that worked really hard – Absolutely fabulous set, Faith Farrell – but in the end it was a lot of running in place. I offer as proof that fact that the finest moment was the giant hand of Kong reaching in – yes, we all expected that and we weren’t disappointed, thank you – and the rest of the two hours was just waiting to get there.
Comedy is HARD.