Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 3, 2017

It’s Only A Play

Theatre Guild of Hampden, Hampden, MA
through May 7, 2017
by Stuart W. Gamble

Terrence McNally's comedy  “It’s Only A Play” was originally produced in the mid-eighties. In many cases, comedy does not age well. Not so in the current spring production of TGH’s “It’s Only A Play.” Much of its dialogue is peppered with current cultural references including selfies, text messages, even Lady Gaga, keeping the show fresh and funny. Another fitting update: the show opens with Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and closes with Stephen Schwartz’ “Defying Gravity,” both iconic tunes about resilience.

McNally’s premise is this: On the opening night of the new play “The Golden Egg,” various characters gather in the penthouse of the show’s producer, anxiously awaiting the first reviews via text messages and phone calls. Those holed up in the apartment include the show’s producer, the extremely rich, yet bubble-headed Julia Budder (Diane Flynn); volatile playwright Peter Austin (Joe Varney); ultra-diva Virginia Noyes (Jeanne Wysocki); wise-cracking best friend of the playwright James Wicker (Brad Shepard); mad hatter of a director Sir Frank Finger (Chris Rojas); acerbic critic Ira Drew (Rich Rubin); and naïve coat room attendant Gus P. Head (Kellum Ledwith).

The entire ensemble of the show works very well together, as directed by TGH Artistic Director Mark Giza, especially in scenes where their unified reaction to events is essential. Standouts in this ensemble include: Jeanne Wysocki as the egomaniacal Virginia Noyes whose pill popping and F-bomb dropping keep the audience in stitches, Chris Rojas’ truly bizarre interpretation of the neurotic director, the always reliable Brad Shepard whose comic timing is faster than a Google search, and Kellum Ledwith’s star struck aspiring actor.

Other notable aspects of this production include Louise Gaito and Mark Giza’s elegant evening wear costumes, replete with sparkling silver and black gowns and purses, tuxedos, and the comically ill-fitting toupee sported by critic Ira Drew. Special credit should be given to the little dog whose photo adorns the program and steals the show at curtain call.