Thursday, May 26, 2011


What might not have been obvious about my review of Triangle Players’ “[title of show]” that I linked to yesterday is that it’s a bit more than just another rave about a cleverly directed, enthusiastically acted, and well-designed production. For one thing, it’s a review that I suggested be titled “Rave About Musical” to keep with the spirit of the show but my own little meta-effort apparently did not make the cut.

The review was also a bit of writing exercise for me. For much of the performance, when I wasn’t laughing out loud, I was smiling broadly or giggling softly. A show as consistently funny as that begs to be called “hilarious.” But ‘hilarious’ is one of those words that is notoriously overused in reviews. Sure, there are plenty of other options: ‘funny,’ ‘amusing,’ even ‘gut-busting,’ ‘side-splitting’ or ‘uproarious.’ But few words fit the bill as consistently as ‘hilarious.’ I thought a show as good as this one deserved a little extra effort on my part so I consciously avoided that one adjective. I was helped, so to speak, by a somewhat reduced word count on the review assignment but still, even with less space to fill, it was a challenge.

And that’s largely because this production is truly hilarious. It contains many clever little bits (the texting of potential stripper names), a few wonderfully ribald touches (I love the term ‘procrastibater’), some Richmond-specific shout-outs (yay, RTCC!), and even a crass prurient moment of semi-nakedness (Ms. Farmer’s scene may not have been this straight guy’s favorite moment but it was close!) The real genius of the piece, however, is how it maintains a logical narrative flow while also expertly walking the weird tightrope of meta-comedy. From small things like the impossible movement of chairs between apartments to the big concepts like the take-over of the show by secondary characters, “[tos]” does indeed push “meta to the max” and has a great time doing so.

So I succeeded in my little writing experiment but that was not nearly as impressive as this production. Each performer is spot-on – as my wife said to me, it’s now a show that’s hard to imagine with any other actor playing each part. But this is also one of those productions where I am more aware of the director’s skill than many others. Part of it is just a pacing thing – the show moves along at a great clip – but there is also a vision clearly guiding the production, an encouragement not to overplay certain parts while staging other scenes to maximize comic potential. So many kudos to Mr. Amellio for his accomplishment.

Finally, if you read this blog, then you ARE a theater geek and, while my review specifically said the show’s appeal transcends theater geekiness, it is a particular pleasure for the stage aficionado. Passing mentions of Dinah Manoff and shows like “Ruthless!” may be beyond the knowledge of even the most fervent geek, but the alternating excitement and drudgery of the perennial understudy or chorus filler will be familiar to many.

I really enjoy smart shows but, unlike intellectually overstuffed pieces like “Arcadia” (which I also loved, BTW), “[title of show]” has such a playful accessible intelligence that everyone can love it. It inspired me to try to write smarter; maybe it’ll inspire others to stretch new intellectual or theatrical muscles. Or, at the very least, to go see more shows.

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