Two boards and lots of passion

It’s Only a Play

By Terrence McNally
Directed by John Capo
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 7)
Midtown International Theatre Festival
WorkShop Theater Mainstage
312 W. 36th St, 4th fl. (; 212/868-4444)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

It’s Only a Play is a realistic comedy about theatre. The current production made the most of the humor while not losing the deeper levels. With a very talented cast, it provided for an enjoyable and entertaining time.

It’s Only a Play takes place in 1992 in a townhouse on the Upper East Side, where an opening-night party is going on for Paul Austin’s new play, The Golden Egg. The entire action of the play takes place above the party, as some of the cast and creative team mingle anxiously awaiting reviews.

The wacky characters include the ingenuous, recently moved to the city, servant, Gus Head (Michael Baldwin); the writer’s best friend, James Wicker (John Squire); who was offered the lead in the show but turned it down because he is a television star; one of the play’s leads who hopes to make a comeback, Virginia Noyes (Sheila Mart); the brilliant director, Frank Finger (John Capo); the first-time producer, Julia Budder (Cynthia Henderson); a hated critic with a clandestine ambition, Ira Drew (Charles Marti); the author, Peter Austin (Frederick Hamilton); and finally a cabdriver who delivers the New York Times, Emma Bovary (Betty Hudson).

Terrence McNally has written a very poignant and hilarious play. Rife with theatre references, it deals realistically with both the ephemeral nature of theatre and the two-faced nature of theatre people, as well as the hideous nature of critics.

The entire cast was believable in their roles and excelled in comic timing. The standouts included John Capo, who burst into the show with an ebullient verve; he captured the passion of Frank Finger with zest. Next, Frederick Hamilton was ravishingly funny and over-the-top as the playwright. Finally, Betty Hudson had humorous blunt line readings that created much laughter.

Capo not only played the director, he directed the show. It moved with great pace, and the staging was well-thought-out and never felt cramped, even with the entire cast on the tiny stage.

Thus, It’s Only a Play might have been only a play, but it provided the audience with a pleasant diversion.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh