Los Angeles Theater Review: 110 IN THE SHADE (Actors Co-op Theatre Company in Hollywood)

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by Tom Chaits on May 12, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Skylar Adams (center) and Ensemble in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.As Los Angeles heats up to sizzling temperatures this week, there is a cool, refreshing theatrical breeze blowing down the pike. It may be wise to avoid the 110-in-the-shade weather outside, but the musical 110 in the Shade at Actors Co-op in Hollywood is not to be missed. With a libretto by N. Richard Nash (based on his play The Rainmaker) and music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones (the team that spawned The Fantasticks, which recently closed after a record-setting 42-year continuous run), this brilliantly staged, wonderfully sung, acutely acted revival will warm the cockles of your heart with its homespun humanity, downhome goodness, and universal themes of faith and love.

Treva Tegtmeier (Lizzie) and Skylar Adams (Starbuck) in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.The setting is an unnamed Depression-era, drought-ridden southwestern town. Lizzy Curry lives with and tends to the needs of her father, H.C., and her 2 brothers, pessimistic realist Noah and youthful cockeyed optimist Jimmy. A plain Jane with high standards who is uncompromising when it comes to catching a man, Lizzy fears she is destined to become an old maid. Just as her hope for love and the town’s hope for rain is about to completely dry up, a stranger named Bill Starbuck appears on the scene to restore their faith. Is he a con man or a miracle worker? In their desperate state no one seems to care in their quest to keep hope alive.

Michael Downing (File), Tim Hodgin (H.C. Curry) and Treva Tegtmeier (Lizzie Curry) in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.Director Richard Israel works his magic on this rarely produced piece and the results are mesmerizing. He transports you to another place and time from the very first note and holds you there transfixed until the final chord. Utilizing several entrances around the three-quarter thrust stage, he seamlessly moves the story along from scene to scene without ever missing a single beat. Add to that Stephen Gifford’s remarkably simple but completely appropriate set design and Mark Svastics’ near-mystical lighting, and the experience is that of floating in a dreamlike trance.

The Ensemble of Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.The cast soars under Israel’s watchful eye, scorching the stage with magnificent performances. Treva Tegtmeier’s layered acting—equal parts moxie, angst, and heartbreak—make her Lizzy a monumental achievement. Tegtmeier has the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand from the moment she arrives on stage. Tim Hodgin, Jason Peter Kennedy, and David Crane as Papa Bear and the bros Noah and Jimmy are all so good your jaw will drop in amazement during several of their scenes. You would be hard-pressed to find more truthful and powerful portrayals on any stage in L.A. Michael Downing as File, the jilted sheriff with a hole in his heart, is terrific. Rachel Hirshee brings just the right amount of beaming enthusiasm to the role of Snookie, Jimmy’s girlfriend.

Treva Tegtmeier (Lizzie), Tim Hodgin (H.C. Curry), Skylar Adams (Starbuck) in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.The only slight misfire is Skylar Adams’ Starbuck. His grand entrance is way over the top and way too big for the room. He comes off more like a brash carnival barker or a hyped-up Harold Hill in The Music Man instead of a charmingly disarming snake oil salesman. Had Mr. Israel reeled him in a bit it would have been more in keeping with the overall tone of the piece. Adams fares much better in his later more intimate scenes with Lizzie although he still could have ratcheted it down a notch. That being said, he still does a very good job with the role. Had he been surrounded by less accomplished actors his minor shortcomings would have gone unnoticed.

Skylar Adams (Starbuck) and Treva Tegtmeier (Lizzie) in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.The ensemble is quite simply one of the best I’ve seen. Alex Denney, Nicholas Acciani, Julie Hall, Emily Armstrong, Rory Patterson, Colby Salmon, Mark Ostrander, and Courtney Potter: Every single one of them has a sense of purpose and place and is completely committed and believable at all times.

Best of all, everyone in the cast can sing. They not only stay on pitch, they enunciate the words and project their voices without the help of artificial amplification. Musical Director and conductor Bryan Blaskie (on piano) brings the lush score vividly to life with a talented group of musicians: Brian Cannady on drums, Xander Lott on bass, Brian Treva Tegtmeier (Lizzie) in Actors Co-op’s production of 110 IN THE SHADE.Morales on clarinet and flute, and Kevin Rose on guitar and banjo. The band is upstage in full view of the audience under a Petticoat Junction-style water tower. There are too many stellar numbers to even begin to single any one out. Truly, there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.

Julie Hall’s choreography, effortlessly executed by the cast, suits the story perfectly because it never calls attention to itself, which actually enriches the magic of the moment. It is a naturalistic approach that never seems forced or false, enhancing Mr. Israel’s vision at every turn.

Every time I enter a theater hope springs eternal that I will be bowled over by the show I am about to see. Alas, too often that is not the case. When it is, I can’t wait to let everyone know. So now you know. Feel the heat for yourself and be swept away by 110 in the Shade.

photos by Lindsay Schnebly

110 in the Shade
Actors Co-op Theatre Company
1760 North Gower St. in Hollywood
Fri and Sat at 8:00 pm; Sun at 2:30 pm;
Sat matinees on May 17 and June 14 at 2:30 pm
scheduled to end on June 15, 2013
for tickets, visit www.actorsco-op.org

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