The stage play of 'Play it Again, Sam' was actually written before the movie that most people are aware of, and starred the author, Woody Allen. I have to admit a bias against Woody Allen - I generally don't care for his approach or style. That said - I had a great time with this production at Melon Patch.
The show revolves around Allan, a film critic who's recently divorced and has a spine made of wet noodle. He tries dating and fails miserably because he believes he can only be attractive by not being himself, and discovers he's wrong. Along the way, he gets advice from someone as different from him as possible: a hallucination of Humphrey Bogart himself.
Allan is played by Dexter Fortune in the production, and in Act 1 appeared almost as nervous/neurotic as his character. The urge to play a Woody Allen-inspired character AS an impression of Woody Allen is forgivable; Fortune has Allen's build on an XL frame, and the suit seemed a bit tight in Act 1. Acts 2 & 3 were notably smoother, and Fortune found his groove as the lovable nebbish without having to be a short lovable nebbish. I expect that comfort level will only grow as the production continues.
Bogart is played by Shelly Whittle, who I last reviewed in the George Burns one man show with Tavares Community Theater in January. Whittle was good there, and great here. If anyone was born to play Bogart or a list of other Film Noir-type gumshoes, it's Whittle and he doesn't disappoint here. He carries the needed gravitas with a proper growl.
Allan's ex is Nancy Felix (Kaitlin Derbyshire), who's painted as the villain - and nothing changes by the end of the show. Derbyshire shows all the needed claws and fangs the role desires, and appears to have a marvelous time with it.
There are a number of smaller roles in this involving Allan's dates, dream girls, etc, etc; these roles need to be done well for belivability, but are parts that would be difficult for only one actress to pull off. Dillan Bullen, Sarah Wade, Stephanie Dezelin and Taylor Joan Perry all do so, proving that old adage that there really are no small parts, only small actors. All four ladies deserve the applause.
Allan's best friend is Dick Christie (Sean Derbyshire). Dick and his wife Linda (Nicole Neubaur) try to help Allan get past his divorce and restart his life. Mr. Derbyshire's and Ms. Neubaur's individual performances (especially in Act 1) appeared lifeless and disjointed. Neubaur picked things up in Act 2 & 3, and began showing the depth of emotion her character needed. Mr. Derbyshire's performance was lackluster until Act 3 when he had a greater emotional range to work with - he appears very good on 'big' emotion, but less comfortable with the 'small' emotions needed in Act 1.
Pet peeves: None, frankly. Really. OK, maybe one small one. ALL drinks were actually poured and/or had liquid - but other than one scene with Bogart, no one actually drinks. Of course, all on stage wore face shields which would have been a bit awkward. Didn't stop Bogey though...but what would?
One note for the cast: it's a comedy. You've GOT to give the audience a chance to laugh before continuing your lines.
The set was marvelous, and rumor has it David Clevenger was involved (although the program doesn't mention him). Clevenger is a Lake County fixture and his sets are always a treat. Certainly hope Melon Patch continues that behind-the-scenes relationship (so to speak)!
The lighting script must be a joy to work with; each Act has multiple dream scenes, moves to dark and then back to normal. Cues for the show I watched were flawless. Sound was well done as well, although I really HATE his door buzzer, I'm sure that was the point. Costumes were properly period (late 60's) and fitted well.
It's becoming a broken record - run, don't walk, to get tickets to this production.
Grade: A (subject matter probably not followed by children under 10 - and not funny to kids under about 14)