A very funny play set backstage at a Broadway theater has opened at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct. “The Understudy” written by award winning playwright Theresa Rebeck is a clever and very funny comedy that brought laughter and much applause from the opening night audience. It recently ran off Broadway.
The play opens with a bang as Harry (Eric Bryant) runs down the aisle of the theater and leaps on stage and reminds the audience to silence their cell phones. We learn quickly he is not a member of the theater but rather an actor and the show has abruptly started even though the stage curtain is still closed. An effective way of getting the full attention of the audience.
This comedy takes place during practice on a Broadway stage for a serious play based on the works of German novelist Franz Kafka. As the actors practice their lines, the audience is treated to a play within a play, with the seriousness of the Kafka story contrasting with the comedy of the main play itself. The Understudy employs three actors, Harry who is the journeyman understudy looking for his big break, Jake (Brett Dalton) who is a movie actor and mid level action film star, and Roxanne (Andrea Sglowski) , a former actress now stage manager whose job during the play is to run this practice. She has the task of keeping Jake and Harry from fighting (as Harry dislikes a B movie actor taking on serious Broadway roles). Jake has no love for Harry as he sees him unfit to understudy for a “star” like himself. Jake too is obsessed as to why he is not receiving big dollar contracts for movies and not the $2 million a film he currently is paid.
We also find that Roxanne and Harry were once engaged and she has no idea he has been cast as the understudy as he has adopted a new name. That tension and Harry’s constant absurd comments about changing the lines further send the practice into disarray. Throw into the mix Laura, the stage board operator (unseen during the show) who is stoned and keeps screwing up the sound, lighting and the sets. This only adds to the calamity on stage. The play gives the audience a look into the world backstage at a Broadway production and all the issues that arrive that give angst to those in the production, but comedy for the viewer.
Interesting is the playwrights commentary on the current state of American theater. Instead of staging plays and musicals of integrity, the public and the theater industry itself is obsessed with celebrity and profits , with many plum roles in the theater going to big name movie stars instead of seasoned actors. This commentary is worthy and timely considering some of the shows making it to the stage today. A very funny play with great acting, a thoughtful clever script and excellent direction by David Kennedy.
The play runs one and a half hours and is fast paced and has no intermission. The play runs through September 1, 2018.
for tickets and information
Westport Country Playhouse
25 Powers Court Westport Ct.
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