Reviews - Dec 2020
I went to the production this weekend alone - my SO was otherwise engaged. And frankly, they were better off.
"Making God Laugh" centers around a family and their get-togethers and plans for the future. These visits occur every 10 years, starting in 1980.
The good - LDT has a little hook in set construction where they have something on stage that is out of place, and an audience member who finds it and brings it to the attention of the staff get free tickets. It's a nice idea, but I think it's gone too far.
The set looked great, but for this run they have three different things 'wrong' - and that's two too many, I think. Two were extremely minor and frankly not unusual for most community theaters, and the third actually made the set (which looked great otherwise) look sloppy.
Costumes were ok, but some pieces meant to be 'in the period' spanned over a number of decades and didn't really pinpoint a date. One of the patrons (who obviously hadn't looked at the playbill which explained the dates of each scene) was confused in Act 1, scene 2 with the timeframe they were now in, based on the costumes on stage.
Lighting was on point. The new sound system sounds great.
The sister of the family, Maddie (played by Marann Curtis) was a shining light on stage; she emoted well, knew her lines, and made her character realistic.
The Bad & the Ugly: I'm not going to belabor this. The acting was of a much lower standard than I'd come to expect at LDT and from community theater in general. Group energy was weak or off completely, and at times it was physically draining to watch. I'd hope some quick line runs and an extra rehearsal or two this week might make the show better for the upcoming weekend.
In addition, I've seen (and appeared in) shows that had 30-45 second scene change blackouts, and we (the cast and crew) were loudly and verbally chastised by the director and stage manager for taking SO LONG. They'd have lost their minds in this show - the scene changes in each act lasted through a complete background song, and then the song started over (!). These were 2+ minute scene changes, in the relative dark, with the crew using CELL PHONES for light on stage. I understand the cast needs to change outfits for the new decade and can't help much; I also understand that LDT appear to have 2-3 crew backstage. BUT - they HAVE to get a few more hands backstage, and they HAVE to get some Dollar Tree flashlights if light is needed! It would have been better to just keep the stage lit than to have stagehands waving their phones around for light!
LDT's next show is Godspell in February, and it can't come too soon.
Grade: D+ (go to support LDT and their future productions)
Last night was the opening of the show, and my SO and I, while talking on the way home, came to the same conclusion: we just don't care for this script. I'm sure Mr. Simon will be terribly disappointed.
It's now far from our first visit here, and the usual actors from Melon Patch were most of the main cast on stage; these actors (Dustin Lavine as Lenny, Laney Clark as Cookie, Jonathan Olson as Ken, Aimee Bangle as Chris, Merissa Dean as Claire, and Lillian Garback as Cassie) we've seen before in productions here, and they're VERY good on-stage. Director Jennifer Mendez's has done well for herself and grows more comfortable every show.
So why was Act 1 so awful? Act 2 was far and away better than Act 1 - the characters finally came alive a bit and became *interesting*. Act 1 the characters felt like tired cliches of American upper class cartoons - and I've seen these actors work well with better material...so my SO and I decided Neil Simon's humor here just didn't click with us, and not to tar the cast and crew for a script we didn't like. (I didn't like the script for Mamma Mia! either, for that matter)
The set was well done, we had no noticeable sound or lighting glitches (other than characters on stage left right flushing a toilet and sound effect coming from stage left), the costumes were great, lines were solid, and Lavine's grand moment at the end of Act 2 is the highlight of show (or was for us). Why the audience didn't applaud (and Lavine looked like he was expecting there to be applause - and there should have been, it was an exhausting scene) is beyond me.
Pet Peeves: the last time I was at Melon Patch (Clue! On Stage, in Oct 2020), I took the production to task for a number of issues that get under my skin: pantomiming drinks on stage; pantomiming drinks on stage when wearing a mask; and having (in my opinion) useless masks in the first place.
Last night, all the female cast has full face shields that didn't limit their ability to emote, or smear makeup; the male cast wore more solid plexiglas nose and mouth coverings. And when they drank from a glass, they LIFTED THE MASK TO DRINK like you would at a party if you were there right now. In our New Normal, it looked...exactly right. When one actor smoked on stage, the mask came up again. There was liquid in the glasses, liquid in the bottles, and actual darn pretzels in the pretzel bag. It's always good to see attention paid to the little things.
This was the first time I'd seen Rumors, and based on the script if I don't see it again I won't cry myself to sleep at night. This cast, in my opinion, made the best silk purse they could of out the sow's ear they were given. Go see the production and support your local theater!
Grade: B- (swearing, smoking; not recommended for children under 10 - and they'd be bored stiff, frankly)