Theater Review: IT’S ONLY A PLAY (Torrance Theatre Company)

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by Shari Barrett on June 8, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


Terrence McNally updated his 1986 Off-Broadway comedy It’s Only a Play for Broadway in 2014 featuring an all-star cast including F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Nathan Lane, and Megan Mullally. It’s a farcical, devilishly witty look behind the scenes at the opening night party of a play whose cast, director and producer have good reasons to be worried about its soon-to-be-published reviews. We get to be a fly on the wall, witnessing the wide range frantic antics and range of human of emotions that allow us to see our own frailties.

Bradley James Holzer and Todd Andrew Ball

Since McNally believes the purpose of theater is to explore what connects us as human beings and how to build bridges between people, it makes perfect sense he knew exactly what it is like waiting backstage for the critics’ reviews, which somehow were published within hours of a play’s Broadway opening night performance. And since there is no way of knowing exactly what will go wrong, there is no doubt something will happen for the first time on opening night.

Cat Rahm and Todd Andrew Ball

Directed by Cate Caplin with a real appreciation of McNally’s wit and a keen sense of how to keep the actors moving at a pace that perfectly reflects their intense emotional turmoil, It’s Only a Play takes us inside the master bedroom suite of producer Julia Budder’s luxurious Manhattan townhouse where the cast and production team are gathering, while a who’s who list of celebrities is gathering downstairs to eat and drink their way into the wee hours of the morning after the opening night of Peter Austin’s new play The Golden Egg. And the cast at Torrance Theatre Company perfectly encapture each of their roles, dressed-to-the-nines by master Costume Designer Michael Mullen.

Kate Patel, Bradley James Holzer, Jennifer Faneuff

With his career on the line, Peter the nervous playwright (Bradley James Holzer) is excited to share his big First Night with his “best” friend James Wicker (Todd Andrew Ball), now a well-known television series star who passed on playing the lead role knowing the play would be a turkey; his novice producer Julia Budder (Jennifer Faneuff) who glides across the stage; doped-up ankle bracelet-wearing leading lady diva Virginia Noyes (curvaceous Kate Patel); furiously self-absorbed British director Frank Finger (Theodore Coonradt who commands the stage with his antics); and lethal drama critic Irene Drew (Cat Rahm) who shows up with her own hidden agenda and winds up covered in spaghetti.

Kate Patel and Todd Andrew Ball

All the guests are attended to by the wide-eyed innocent, fresh-off-the-bus coat check attendant Gus Head (Ronan Meade) on his first night in Manhattan. During the talkback, Meade shared this is his first play in Los Angeles after moving here to pursue his acting career. It was wise of Ms. Caplin to nab him for this role.

Ronan Meade

Knowing full well how New York opening nights go, McNally sets the quick-paced banter as alternately raucous, ridiculous, and tender. Across the two acts boasting almost as many Broadway name-drops as punch lines, the talented cast under Caplin’s pinpoint artistic vision delivered their intersecting lines with perfect comic timing, obviously knowing how important it is to both give and take with your fellow actors. And all the while, non-stop entrances, exits and laughs abounded. Don’t miss this barb-filled love letter to the madness of high-stakes New York theater.

Theodore Coonradt

photos by Mickey Elliot

Todd Andrew Ball, Bradley James Holzer and Jennifer Faneuff

It’s Only a Play
Torrance Theatre Company, 1316 Cabrillo Ave. in Torrance
thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sat and Sun at 2
ends on June 22, 2024
for tickets, visit Torrance Theatre Company
or email Gia Jordahl at GJordahl@TorranceCA.Gov

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