There are many layers to the Pass Christian Theatre Project’s new two-act production, “It’s Only A Play,” and all of them are filled with satire, irony, name-dropping, mud-slinging and of course, hilarity.
Penned by Terrence McNally, this show died on Broadway decades ago, was resurrected in the boondocks, then amended and rerun on Broadway to universal acclaim. The playwright even wrote the earlier panning reviews into the subsequent revival …verbatim. Yes, it’s that kind of show.
Director Tom Longnecker does it every justice with a sterling cast headed by Stephen Scot as terrified playwright Peter Austin, Laura Cordero as the hopeful producer Julia Budder, and Harry Clarke as the self-loathing director of a play opening on The Great White Way.
The setting is the second floor of Julia’s Manhattan townhouse, with a party raging below, and a beast of a dog named Torch ensconced in the only available bathroom.
Also present are TV sitcom actor James Wicker (Mark Williams), washed up actress and drunken parolee Virginia Noyes (Leslie Barajas), the coat check boy and thespian wannabe Gus Head (Aaron Rishel), and to thicken the plot like a bowl full of jelly, vicious theater critic Ira Drew (Lee Kalik).
They are all anxiously awaiting the opening night review that will make or break the show, with only some of them hoping for the best.
What sets it apart
But what drives this play, apart from the expert direction and great comic timing by the ensemble cast, is the name-dropping perpetrated by all in support of trashing every famous actor, director and renowned personality unfortunate enough to be remembered, and the devilishly wicked script that allows the characters to pick each other apart with sharp and merciless tongues.
This show takes celebrity-bashing to a whole new level, while the playwright’s penchant for taking a nuclear approach to comedy and exhuming belly-laughs from the ashes brings a sure-fire hit to the Pass Christian stage.
Fed up with his often shallow, occasionally uncouth and always back-stabbing companions, the TV star, who turned down a role in the play and now secretly craves a bad review, exclaims, “I can’t believe the egos in this room!” You don’t have to be a theater critic to recognize the irony of that comment where actors, directors (and even critics) are concerned. Yet, underneath it all is a subtle paean to all things theater that should resonate with the Coast’s ardent theater admirers.
And there are two local twists you’ll only see in small-town Mississippi. The players worked in the ubiquitous trains screeching through Pass Christian day and night, but you’ll have to hear it to appreciate it. And one thing you won’t hear is much of the original blue language bestowed upon the New York playgoers; they’ve made this version strictly PG-13.
A perfect blend of Broadway sauce and Coast home cooking, I say, and urge you not miss this production running at 315 Clarke Ave., Pass Christian, 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday night and 2 p.m. Sunday.