By: Dan Martin
Hello dear readers and art bleeders. Welcome to my first show review. I know, first a book now a play! Don't worry there is no homework. I find it difficult myself to find under the radar projects that hold my interest. Daydream Theatre Company and I have been working together on and off for the past ten years or so now. They are the foremost DIY theatrical company working out of RI. There will be a chance for you to see this wonderful show in the coming year and I am very proud to say that...
(I Loved) LUCY!
This review really begins about eleven years ago. I first met Leonard Schwartz at an audition for an offbeat comedy play, "Barry Weintraub: Intergalactic Explorer." It was my first venture into what I would later learn to identify as Fringe Community Theater. I attended the audition because I had met Lenny while he was working for a chain Video Store... remember those? Sheesh! I could tell right away that this guy was on to something. He wrote original scripts and produced them through a non profit company that he started with help from his Wife, Sarah Hutchins-Schwartz and long time friends, producers Jim Belanger and Lloyd Felix. [DayDream Theatre] This wasn't your grandfather's theater.
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of non-profit theater organizations that raise money for charities and employ local actors volunteering their time and if you want to see conventional theater for the umpteenth time its not so bad. I can only take so many modernized Shakespeares and Christmas Carols before my brain jumps out of my head and sneaks into an indie film.
I landed the role of "Mr. Whisper" in that show and went on to portray him a second time in "Barry Weintraub: Man Of Tomorrow." As well as a bevy of off beat characters. Including portraying Lenny himself in "A Playwright's Notebook." I have even designed practical effects for shows such as "Wire Game" where we did exploding blood bags. Lenny is always taking risks. The comedies always had central themes that spoke to the audience. Themes that sometimes even the actors couldn't handle, like impotency, infidelity and incest to name a few. As Lenny moved into more drama based shows he never forgot his comedy roots. Some shows contained dark comedy that kept the drama rolling while others had over the top moments for comic relief. His sense of timing for a joke is impeccable. While working with Schwartz an actor is given the freedom to create their own characters and in some instances, their lines. Everything goes through the Director's unique filter of course. Lenny is very hands on, even improv, once decided on, is canonized. I have done shows where I would be off on my own for a page or two and some where one stray word would get a, "That's great but we can't use it." Lenny's way of saying, stick the script you ingrate! At least that's what I hear.
The show begins with Lucy in acting school, being told she will never make it. Her class mate, Bette Davis was there to witness the haranguing from the drama coach. The set is simple, there is a couch and side table with a telephone upstage. Downstage, chairs are brought in and taken off by other actors. Scene changes are seamless. It's as if the play is one large scene composed of well choreographed moments. Lucy, played by Andrea Flax, is on stage for the entire show. With the exception of hiding behind the side curtains from time to time, utilizing all parts of the simple set. Just like in film, nothing is arbitrary. Lucy is on stage the entire time and is visited by characters as though they are thoughts in her head. Its as if the show is comprised of her memories and is ultimately taking place at the end of her life. Bette Davis' character is almost a personification of Lucy's jealousy from being in the same acting school and yet not becoming the caliber Silver Screen actress that Davis achieved. Actress Jamie Lynn Bagley played a sharp tongued Bette Davis, voicing all of Lucy's insecurities and effectively haunting the actress with expectations of failure.
Ball remained on stage and was victim to her own memories. RKO Executives and Sponsors alike would rotate out and recreate seminal moments in her career. And of course the love in I love Lucy, Desi Arnaz, played wonderfully by Gio Castellano was a major part of the show. The story was unflinching. We as an audience were exposed to the drinking, womanizing and even a physical fight where Lucy calls him a "Wet Back." No punches were pulled in the telling of this great story. The script even shed light on the tumultuous relationships between Lucy and her cast mates, Vivian Vance and William Frawley, played by Lauren Ustaszewski and Geoff White, respectively. The timeline of the show goes in order from school to work and into marriage, Television and eventually death. There is something in this show for everyone. Whether you are a big fan that wants to fact check or someone new to the characters, you will walk away having learned something.
The show will return in May, 2014 at Bell St. before it heads to NYC. All of the funds raised for performances are donated to the space, Bell St Chapel, as it is a historical building. However money is raised to pay for cast travel and living for the road shows. You can find out how to donate and when and where performances are on their site. The link once more... DayDream Theatre.
Leonard Schwartz is scheduled to appear on The Comic's Corner, December 4th 2013! We will talk more about this (or I will just blog on forever) and his latest DVD release and film projects.