Friday, June 21, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Show-Off -- Westport Playhouse

Jayne Houdyshell and Karl Baker Olson. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Show-Off
By George Kelly
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Westport Country Playhouse

What's It All About?
A comedy/drama, one of the first in that genre by George Kelly, Princess Grace Kelly's brother. In three acts, it follows the Fisher family of North Philadelphia and its dynamics when one of the daughters, Amy (Clea Alsip) gets involves with a boorish show-off, Aubrey Piper (Will Rogers) whose obnoxious laugh and tall tales are an annoyance to the other family members: plain-speaking mom (Jayne Houdyshell), sensible, reliable sister Clara (Mia Brown)  and inventor brother Joe (Karl Baker Olson). Piper's lack of a work ethic and schemes keep landing him in trouble and Clara's husband, Frank (Robert Eli). keeps bailing him out. Nat DeWolf rounds out the ensemble as a co-worker of the family's father (not seen)

What are the Highlights?
Jayne Houdyshell in anything on stage is a highlight. This gifted actress is a director's dream, totally imbuing her character with depth and richness while showing off terrific comedic chops. She's one of theater's gems.

What are the Lowlights?
This sleepy 1924 play is kind of slow-going without much really happening. There's what one might call a twist at the end, but  hardly anything gripping.

Rogers is miscast as the brass know-it-all with an annoying laugh. All of it appears contrived, like he's working too hard to convince us that this character is natural. The take is not funny, just annoying for two hours and 40 minutes (with two intermissions).

The set designed by Alexander Dodge is lovely, but confusing. There is supposed to be a parlor on what looks like the other side of the front entrance to the house. Dialogue says one of the characters is going to the dining room when she exits through an unstage right door, but the dining room table and chairs are set downstage right....

More Information:
The Show-Off runs through June 29 at Westport Countyr Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Performances are Tuesday at 8pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets start at $30: 203-227-4177; 1-888-927-7529; www.westportplayhouse.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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