×

Playback

Playback (Court Theatre; 89 seats; $ 20 top) Phillip Nemy presents a comedy in one act by Charlie Peters. Directed by Leslie Ferreira; set design, Thomas Walsh; costume design, Merrily Murray-Walsh; lighting design, Alison Ford; video design, Dennis Diamond; sound design, Alicia Allen. Opened Jan. 24, 1997; reviewed Feb. 1; runs through Feb. 23. Running time: 1 hour, 20 min.) Cast: Fred Sanders (Henry Jones), Richard R. Ruccolo (Nick Crane), Dey Young (Valerie Jones), Mel Green (Playback), Kari Leigh Floyd (Catherine Smith-Smith), Al Rossi (Andre Dvornichek). Writer Charlie Peters tackles academic political correctness with an uneven mix of theatrical tones and styles in a production that features generally lackluster acting performances and weak production values. Henry Jones (Fred Sanders) is an ambitious professor at the mythical Sackville College who aspires to a deanship and is willing to navigate even the most treacherous shoals of political correctness to achieve his goal. He is divorcing his wife Valerie (Dey Young), who has long bridled under the strictures of academic wifedom, and taken up with student activist Catherine Smith-Smith (Kari Leigh Floyd), whose mother hyphenated her maiden name when she married another Smith. The current tempest-in-a-teapot at Sackville (there is always some tempest-in-a-teapot at places like Sackville) is a prominently displayed mural by angry young painter Nick Crane (Richard R. Ruccolo) that depicts the college's chief benefactor, Andre Dvornichek (Al Rossi), naked with a lighted cigar protruding from his butt. While the campus is in an uproar over issues of censorship, freedom of speech, political art and big donor money, professor Jones sees an opportunity to advance his career by bringing the angry young painter and fat cat donor to some agreement. The intention of playwright Peters is clearly to take farcical aim at the fractious and often superficial debates on college campuses today, as well as the generally mindless exchanges that pass for debate in the media. However, he misses the mark by creating characters that are themselves shallow and cliched. Professor Jones, for example, is a cookie-cutter version of the academic wimp, while artist Crane might as well be carrying a sign reading "Angry Young Artist" around his neck. Good farce, while undeniably broad, is built on the foundation of specific, believable characters, and none of Peters' characters rise to that level. The one exception is the character called Playback (Mel Green), a kind of Mephistophelean figment of Jones' imagination,a monster in the machine who cleans away all the underbrush of deconstruction and semiotics and simply spews the ugly truth for all to hear. Much of the charm of the role, however, stems from Green's colorful and energetic performance rather from Peters' writing. Direction by Leslie Ferreira does not help the plodding script. The performers seem to miss important connections both with one another and with the material. The production values are also rather weak. The transitions to and from video are awkward, and the entire production feels under-rehearsed. Sets by Thomas Walsh add little to the subtext of the piece, and are often quite distracting. ---Hoyt Hilsman

Playback (Court Theatre; 89 seats; $ 20 top) Phillip Nemy presents a comedy in one act by Charlie Peters. Directed by Leslie Ferreira; set design, Thomas Walsh; costume design, Merrily Murray-Walsh; lighting design, Alison Ford; video design, Dennis Diamond; sound design, Alicia Allen. Opened Jan. 24, 1997; reviewed Feb. 1; runs through Feb. 23. Running time: 1 hour, 20 min.) Cast: Fred Sanders (Henry Jones), Richard R. Ruccolo (Nick Crane), Dey Young (Valerie Jones), Mel Green (Playback), Kari Leigh Floyd (Catherine Smith-Smith), Al Rossi (Andre Dvornichek). Writer Charlie Peters tackles academic political correctness with an uneven mix of theatrical tones and styles in a production that features generally lackluster acting performances and weak production values. Henry Jones (Fred Sanders) is an ambitious professor at the mythical Sackville College who aspires to a deanship and is willing to navigate even the most treacherous shoals of political correctness to achieve his goal. He is divorcing his wife Valerie (Dey Young), who has long bridled under the strictures of academic wifedom, and taken up with student activist Catherine Smith-Smith (Kari Leigh Floyd), whose mother hyphenated her maiden name when she married another Smith. The current tempest-in-a-teapot at Sackville (there is always some tempest-in-a-teapot at places like Sackville) is a prominently displayed mural by angry young painter Nick Crane (Richard R. Ruccolo) that depicts the college’s chief benefactor, Andre Dvornichek (Al Rossi), naked with a lighted cigar protruding from his butt. While the campus is in an uproar over issues of censorship, freedom of speech, political art and big donor money, professor Jones sees an opportunity to advance his career by bringing the angry young painter and fat cat donor to some agreement. The intention of playwright Peters is clearly to take farcical aim at the fractious and often superficial debates on college campuses today, as well as the generally mindless exchanges that pass for debate in the media. However, he misses the mark by creating characters that are themselves shallow and cliched. Professor Jones, for example, is a cookie-cutter version of the academic wimp, while artist Crane might as well be carrying a sign reading “Angry Young Artist” around his neck. Good farce, while undeniably broad, is built on the foundation of specific, believable characters, and none of Peters’ characters rise to that level. The one exception is the character called Playback (Mel Green), a kind of Mephistophelean figment of Jones’ imagination,a monster in the machine who cleans away all the underbrush of deconstruction and semiotics and simply spews the ugly truth for all to hear. Much of the charm of the role, however, stems from Green’s colorful and energetic performance rather from Peters’ writing. Direction by Leslie Ferreira does not help the plodding script. The performers seem to miss important connections both with one another and with the material. The production values are also rather weak. The transitions to and from video are awkward, and the entire production feels under-rehearsed. Sets by Thomas Walsh add little to the subtext of the piece, and are often quite distracting. —Hoyt Hilsman

Playback

Court Theatre; 89 seats; $20 top; Opened Jan. 24, 1997

  • Production: Phillip Nemy presents a comedy in one act by Charlie Peters. Directed by Leslie Ferreira.
  • Crew:
  • Cast: Cast: Fred Sanders (Henry Jones), Richard R. Ruccolo (Nick Crane), Dey Young (Valerie Jones), Mel Green (Playback), Kari Leigh Floyd (Catherine Smith-Smith), Al Rossi (Andre Dvornichek). Set design, Thomas Walsh; costume design, Merrily Murray-Walsh; lighting design, Alison Ford; video design, Dennis Diamond; sound design, Alicia Allen. Opened Jan. 24, 1997; reviewed Feb. 1; runs through Feb. 23. Running time: 1 hour, 20 min.)
  • Music By: