Comedy secure on its axis


By Christopher Piehler
Directed by Alfredo Galvan
Blue Light Theater Co.
Harold Clurman Theater
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by John Attanas

When the first scene of a play takes place in the studio of a daytime talk show called Hello Pittsburgh, hosted by one Socrates McKey, whose first guest is a soap opera heartthrob named Fox Wolf, who plays a character named Wolf Fox and was nominated for an Oscar for a film entitled Hands Off My Pansy, it is fairly clear what type of play is being performed: broad, fast, furious and hopefully funny. Spin, by Christopher Piehler, is all of those things and more.

The main plot follows a nasty congressional race between State Senator Diana Kelso, a slick pol whose platform calls for the building of Steel-Town, an amusement park with a steelworker motif, and former Congressional aide Frank Stepanowski, an earnest though priggish fellow who talks too much and has few if any social skills. Into the mix come their respective handlers, Alexis and Potter (who is obsessed with Frank's hair), the aforementioned Socrates McKey, and Fox Wolf. While the two politicians are polar opposites who seem to hate each other, more is going on between them than meets the eye. And when Socrates McKey finds out what is going on, the race is turned upside down.

On the whole, Spin is a very funny piece. An extended one-act, it is just the right length at 75 snappy minutes. While there are a few dead spots, there is much humor throughout, especially early on. And surprisingly, the play also has a few touching moments, though not too many to slow down the action. Clearly, author Christopher Piehler both knows his subject and how to write a farce.

The production by the Blue Light Theater Company was generally well done. The acting was appropriately broad and zany, but not so broad as to make the piece appear too ridiculous. Standing out were the rubber-faced Elizabeth Warner, who was extremely funny, yet also quite touching as Diana Kelso, and Tom Staggs as the stuffy yet ultimately thoughtful Frank Stepanowski. Erika Iverson was crisp and attractive as Diana's handler Alexis. James Stanley and Scott Nankivel were quite funny as Socrates McKey and Fox Wolf, respectively. The direction, by Alfredo Galvan, was crisp throughout, even in terms of the set changes, which were amusing to watch.

While the set, costumes, and lights were quite limited, there were a few small touches that showed Blue Light Theater's attention to detail. Specifically, the conspicuous AIDS ribbon on Fox Wolf's tuxedo jacket. Little things like that say a lot.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 John Attanas

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