IF YOU GO
What: Behind-the-scenes comedy about a naive box office girl trying to make it in the theatre business
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 17
Where: Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 South Heathwood Dr., Marco Island
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
Make haste, all ye actors, writers, theater types and lovers of laughs. The season's second great comedy has been born down on Marco Island. Pat Berry and her cast of clever thespians at the Island Theater Company can "Blame it on Beckett." The laughs, the howls and the good times. All of it.
The almost brand-new play, from John Morogiello, shows the warts-and-all process of creating a new play. Except that's not what the play it about at all. "Beckett" finds a bright-eyed box-office vixen Heidi desperate to move up in the theatre world. She starts climbing - first into an internship, then into beds. Managers, playwrights, producers, Heidi is headed upward (or forward and backward), even if Heidi is naive and stupid. And boy, is Heidi naive and stupid.
Now in its third year, the Island Theater Company shows definite signs of maturing. Working out of the Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum, shows have gotten better each time, sets more polished (love the piles of fake scripts) and the acting and technical elements more smooth. Not even a blown fuse during Sunday's matinee disrupted this comedic creation.
"Blame it on Beckett" starts with a bang (not Heidi's) and gets better. John Moulton plays cranky dramaturg Jim, the guy assigned to "help" playwrights "rewrite" their scripts. It's a thankless job and Moulton lets us see every ounce of bitterness. He smokes - indoors. He pouts. He lies to playwrights. "Of course I'm reading our script!" Rolls eyes.
Once Abby Yetter's perky Heidi arrives, the two bat the silly lines around the stage like they're playing badminton on a wide summer lawn. He thinks she's a precocious daddy's girl; she thinks he's a burned-out old sot - and the chemistry soars. Watch for the way director Pat Berry fashions their snarky put-downs, the arch sneers and the sidelong glances. Those are real Louboutins, by the way.
Jared Wagner brings a brash, leering charm to horndog theatre business manager Mike "Big Mike" Braschi. He needs everything in writing - until he doesn't. You'll love to hate him. Wait - just wait - for the flirtatious scene with Yetter and Wagner's "Big Mike" that leads to the line "Why is he called 'Big Mike' anyway?" We never find out. But do we really want to know?
Look too for Mai Puccio. The veteran, who let Peter Galluzo make her a spiffy redhead for the role, charms as world-weary writer Tina Fike. Tina's a cutthroat willing to ride roughshod over any obstacle to get her play to Broadway. Watch her shift from sweet, helpful mentor to predator in a flash.
The show never takes itself seriously - and the actors let fly with every bit of fun they could possibly have. Moulton flings scripts from the piles around the office into the trash can from across the room with dismissive glee. Yetter holds a can of air freshener at arm's length and sprays it dismissively.
Berry enlisted four different amateur actors to tape the insane voice-over segments that play during scene changes. Listen for Judy Daye, Ray Kane, Edwin Kindred and Greg Madera. The pieces add yet another over-the-top flair, like a playwright's award acceptance speech that thanks 287 producers. This theatre critic even got an ad-libbed shout-out. Bravo!
If you've ever worked in a theater, seen a play, worked in the arts, for, around or near a non-profit, this is the play for you. Every. Single. Problem. From low budgets to the inability to fire incompetent staff to stale programming is represented here - and played entirely for laughs. Don't dismiss the play as a grudge-match, it speaks lovingly to the insanity of working in the arts.
"Blame it on Beckett" finds big laughs, great performances and crowd-pleasing amusement every minute of the night. If there's "blame" to be assigned, it can be only the good kind, for "Beckett" doles out nothing but fun.