Don’t Talk to the Actors
Who The Central New York Playhouse
Where 3649 Erie Blvd. E, Shoppingtown Mall, Syracuse
When Through Nov. 24
Review by Josh Austin
As an ode to green room conversations, Tom Dudzick’s Don’t Talk to the Actors gives a salacious, laboring, comedic peek into the creative process of how a Broadway play comes to the stage, highlighting the sometimes grimy, manipulative and, of course, cunningly dramatic development of the actors.
But, that’s New York City for you, right?
At least, that’s the play’s conclusion. After two naïve innocents travel from Buffalo to the Big Apple, they unknowingly immerse themselves in the slimy culture of their idolized Great White Way. Meeting a workaholic, simple stage manager and selfish actors, the couple unintentionally transforms their characters into the similar grime of showbiz.
The backstage comedy is the inaugural production of The Central New York Playhouse, a new theater nestled within the Shoppingtown Mall. Although the location doesn’t seem savvy enough to house a playhouse, the still work-in-progress theater boasts a big stage and plenty of room for their future, more grandiose productions such as The Man Who Came To Dinner and next year’s Spamalot. Don’t Talk to the Actors has a cast of six—and there was still quite a lot of room on stage.
The shtick-type comedy falls on a young, up-and-coming playwright, Jerry Przpezniak (Maxwel Anderson), and his fiancée Arlene Wyniarski (Lynn Elizabeth King) who move to the city to rehearse Jerry’s Broadway-bound play Tuning Pianos. The two-actor show has cast the has-been television star Curt Logan (Lanny Freshman) and the spitfire Beatrice Pomeroy (Nora O’Dea), all under the easy-going direction of Mike Policzek (Keith Arlington) and the strict stage manager Lucinda (Heather Roach).
It’s not hard to imagine that the central problem of the play comes directly form the title. When the director tells Jerry, “Don’t talk to the actors,” he isn’t kidding. As the sweet-natured Jerry befriends Logan, he begins to second-guess his script, and possibly, dramatically, his life. The plot simmers to a fiasco and rather abruptly all wounds are patched right back up.
Still, the show, directed by Dan Stevens, contains some nice complexes for the characters, as almost all of them show a tangible arc throughout the piece. Unfortunately, this production had some minor bumps in showing these transformations.
Most noticeably are Logan’s intentions. This play doesn’t have any hidden meanings or nuances; rather everything is laid out nicely for everyone to see. Logan’s objectives are ill willed—but Freshman didn’t deliver any hint of slyness. The actor gave a goofy, lovable performance, occasionally running over his laughs. But, no one could seriously be mad at him in the end. Why? Because you wanted to hug him.
The lovely, almost nauseating, couple believes that everything is too good to be true. Although Anderson delivers an adorable, wants-to-please-everyone playwright, his occasionally excessive reactions detract from the action on the stage. Still, his character is a dreamer and has a subtle charm. His counterpart, Arlene, is more realistic—aside from her stalker-ish adoration of Logan. King plays a rightly so over-the-top fiancée, her quickly reserved persona fades as she accepts that within merely five days, she has become a New Yorker and her life should take a more hardened, glamorous turn.
Standout is O’Dea. Playing the blusterous, hammy star, O’Dea capitalizes on all her exaggerated moments. It’s refreshing to see her fragility appear toward the end of the show.
This play is a standard comedy seen before. The difference is that it shows the true, brutal intentions of the theatrical world: Two actors want their egos stroked while the rest want the artistic integrity preserved; all the while the hilarity ensues.
But perhaps, the director, Policzek, said it best: “Just another routine day in theater.”