Theater Review: VOICE LESSONS (L.A. – Hollywood)

by Tony Frankel on May 14, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

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Say what you will about Voice Lessons, Justin Tanner’s shockingly uproarious one-act play, now receiving an encore presentation at Sacred Fools Theatre, but you will never forget that you attended it. Still emblazoned in my hippocampus is Tanner’s 1994 hit, Pot Mom, which remains one of the funniest and most original shows ever witnessed. (Although Pot Mom was also staged at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, it is criminal that it did not have a go in New York. Regardless, Angelenos are lucky to have him.)

Voice Lessons by Justin Tanner – with Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart, and Maile Flanagan - Sacred Fools Theater, Los AngelesVirginia (Laurie Metcalf) is an untalented, libidinous, poor-white-trash woman who talks penurious voice teacher Nate (French Stewart) into giving her lessons. He has heard her self-made CD and knows that it is unfeasible to make her a better singer, yet she makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Big Gulp-drinking Virginia seems serious at first, but her ego interferes with anything Nate can offer her. Also challenging for Nate is his girlfriend Sheryl (Maile Flanagan) who had a previous professional relationship with “Ginny”

Directed by Bart DeLorenzo, Voice Lessons only runs 70 minutes, so two more sentences of plot would give the whole show away. It’s significant to note that even though we are satisfied with all of the fascinating, quirky, and amusing banter between Ginny and Nate, the show screams for a second act. Certainly, things are wrapped up at the end, but we would love to see such original characters end up in another situation. It’s as if we just saw the best television pilot ever made, but it wasn’t picked up for a full season.

Voice Lessons by Justin Tanner – with Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart, and Maile Flanagan - Sacred Fools Theater, Los AngelesWhether these are very brave actors or they’re just as happy as pigs in shit doesn’t matter; the bottom line is that all three actors remain truthful as they run wild with their outlandish characters and outrageous dialogue. Ms. Metcalf has the chops to be a silent film star – her variety of facial expressions is so extraordinary that one would wonder if her flesh was made of silly putty. I’m rather certain that if you look up the word “droll” in the dictionary, you would see Mr. Stewart’s mug; he is a clown of the highest order. Although Ms. Flanagan’s role encompasses far less stage time, she truly has the most amazing moment of the night with just the bare necessities.

For far less of a price than an actual voice lesson, Voice Lessons is so hysterical that your uvula will have a great workout.

tonyfrankel @

photos by Ed Krieger

Voice Lessons
scheduled to close May 29 at time of publication
for tickets, visit or call 310-281-8337

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