[title of show]: A Joyous Look at Theater from the Inside Out
COHOES – Wikipedia tells us that [title of show] is a one-act musical, with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and a book by Hunter Bell. The show chronicles its own creation as an entry in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and follows the struggles of the author, the composer/lyricist, and their two actress friends during the initial brief (three-week) creative period, along with subsequent events leading up to the show’s production. What we are presented with is the germ of an idea and the subsequent birth of a play.
The cast is small – four actors and a keyboard player. The set is non-existent: the rear wall is white washed brick that ultimately becomes, at various times throughout the play, a large screen on which answering machines are projected that help to show passage of time as messages to and from the various characters are heard. There are also a few assorted videos and a wonderfully entertaining pastiche of various Playbill covers. Four chairs placed around the stage cover the set and props.
[title of show] is very evidently a show written by theater people for theater people, but it is enjoyable for everyone. A unique concept that should probably not have worked in real life, and definitely not as a produced play, yet it does. Playhouse Stage Company‘s latest production currently at Cohoes Music Hall is an incredibly entertaining 90+ minutes of angst, fun, laughter, good music, and excellent talent.
Once again, the talent pool in the Capital Region is overflowing to the benefit of theatergoers. The cast consists of: Devin Cortez as Jeff Bowen, Jacob Lehning as Hunter Bell, Michelle Oppedisano is Susan Blackwell, and Nicole Zelka is Heidi Blickenstaff. The cast is rounded out by Musical Director Brian Axford as Larry Pressgrove, the keyboard player. The cast is delightfully directed by Michael LoPorto. The six are all veterans of multiple productions of Playhouse Stage. LoPorto has put together the best of the best with a cast that is uniform in its comedic timing and delivery. It is rare when a show is
able to present a uniformity of talent and is a true ensemble production as seen on this stage.
It is great fun to see Brian Axford emerge from the pit and become an integral part of the production. Axford plays with the big boys here (pun intended). His comic timing is spot on whether delivering his few lines, doing the crossword puzzle while waiting for the next number or just throwing the odd glance to the cast members.
Axford, too, has been given the gift of four equally talented performers, all of whom have their moments to shine musically. Whether singing as soloists, in duets, or full company numbers, voices blend, complement one another, and present solid performances.
It is a pleasure to spend some time with the characters, laugh with them and at them, and to feel their frustrations as they work through the labor and ultimate birth of the show. [title of show] is an engaging adult evening in the theater.
Congratulations to Owen Smith, Playhouse Stage Company’s Producing Artistic Director for once again choosing a play that is perhaps not too well-known and a bit edgy. This company has figured out a way to present to the community a combination of plays that appeal to the masses and engage the audiences to spread their theatrical wings. To reach out and see something other than what might be considered run of the mill, or the “safe standards”. If they can only figure out a way to fill the seats and get the community to come out in force to support these lesser known shows, they will have hit a home run.
[title of show] runs through Feb. 12. at Cohoes Music Hall. Ticket prices range from $33-45. For more information, visit playhousestage.org or call the box office: 518-434-0776.
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