Toast of the Town
Raise your glass to some raucous slapstick
|Factory Theater presents|
|Toast of the Town|
Review by Anuja Vaidya
The world of theater is often characterized as being filled with eccentric personalities. The Factory Theater’s Toast of the Town takes a meta-theatrical look at the process of putting up a play with a quirky cast and crew, one of whom is out to sabotage the show. Filled with raucous jokes, this production is an unabashedly satirical yet oddly warm look at the theater industry.
Playwright Goldie McJohn gets the opportunity to kick-start his flailing career when he is offered a slot at the prestigious Lawdy Mama (prestigious because it is by the lake, but of course!) but it is up to him to find a director, cast and crew. He casts the play with the only people who turn up for the audition – a bartender, a self-important theater veteran, an endearing server waiting for his big break and a kind-hearted girl with a grating voice. Add to that the spurned playwright Roy. It is the slot that is traditionally Roy’s that is given to McJohn and Roy vows to ruin his show, deciding to accomplish this by becoming a cast member. Next, McJohn must find a director. He hears of the “eccentric” and “offbeat” but brilliant director Arabella C. Doyle and tracks her down. It doesn’t take him long to get her, and her loyal but equally offbeat sidekicks, to jump on the bandwagon. In the midst of the madcaps and muddles, is McJohn heavily pregnant wife, Kay.
Toast of the Town is unapologetically loud and consciously over-the-top, and it works well that way. Kudos to the cast for keeping the high energy going for the entire duration of the play. Having said that, however, like many overtly energetic situations, it starts getting on your nerves. It is almost like hearing someone talk non-stop at the same pace and volume for an hour. While they might have interesting and entertaining stories to tell, you want them to take a few breaths. The jokes fell flat at times, in part due to the relentlessly high-strung manner in which they are delivered. This production might have benefitted from some quieter and softer moments to give the production a sense of variety and moments of much needed respite from the constant comedy.
Laura Mckenzie, Allison Cain and Scott OKen as Arabella C. Doyle and her sidekicks, have wonderful onstage chemistry and compliment each other beautifully. I particularly enjoyed Allison Cain’s performance as she manages to slip in some moments of subtle humor in the midst of all the over-dramatic ones. The same can be said for Tony Kaehny as Roy. His comic timing is spot-on and Roy is strangely lovable despite his plotting the show’s downfall. Also thoroughly enjoyable is Alexandria Frenkel as Melinda Comaway. She plays the horribly high-pitched Melinda with a great deal of charm.
Filled with absurd situations and hilarious high jinks, there aren’t any moments where you find your attention wavering. You are riveted to the oddball happenings on stage and find yourself rooting for the characters, as they are all essentially good people. Go watch Toast of the Town if you enjoy laugh-a-minute humor and happy, if improbable, endings. Be prepared, however, for a lingering feeling of wishing that the theater industry in reality could be filled with this much affability and changes of heart.
Toast of the Town continues through December 15th at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston (map), with performances Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20, and are available online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TheFactoryTheater.com. (Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes, no intermission)
Photos by Melissa Engle
Timothy C. Amos (Goldie McJohn); Laura Deger (Kay McJohn); Dennis Schnell (Chief Floyd Rose); Anthony Tournis (Commissioner Thurston deBladderhorn); Tony Kaehny (Roy/Jake Stone); Chas Vrba (Eddie); Brian Parenti (Cy Curnin); Tony Rossi (Renchini); Colin Milroy (Wallington Smithington Silverston); Kathryn Acosta (Lorraine Sweet); Catherine Dughi (Yvonne Elliman); Alexandria Frenkel (Melinda Comaway); Laura McKenzie (Arabella C. Doyle); Allison Cain (Myrna Flockstein); Scott OKen (Bigsby); Ernie Deak (Bob Hope); Jason Peregoy (Dr. Hardon); Charlotte Long (Nurse Chinworthy); Mike Beyer (Understudy)
behind the scenes
Nick Digilio (director); Jermaine Edward Thomas (stage manager); Phillip Claudnic (production manager); Tom Aufman (technical director); Joseph Lark-Reilly (set designer); Chloe Honeyman-Bloede (lighting); Vivian Knouse (props); Rachel Sypniewski (costumes); Chas Vrba (sound design); Melissa Engle (photographer); Jason Moody (graphics); Patrick Holland (video)