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Stage Struck

"Stage Struck" is a major disappointment from the usually reliable playwright Simon Gray, whose stab at the comedy-thriller genre misses its mark completely. Although the dialogue is intermittently amusing, the show is unsuspenseful and dull, its plot bereft of cleverness and believability.

With:
Robert - Louis Lotorto Herman - Kevin Symons Anne - Mary Gordon Murray Widdecombe - Larry Cedar

“Stage Struck” is a major disappointment from the usually reliable playwright Simon Gray (“Butley,” “Otherwise Engaged”), whose stab at the comedy-thriller genre misses its mark completely. Although the dialogue is intermittently amusing, the show is unsuspenseful and dull, its plot bereft of cleverness and believability. Director Rick Sparks and a hard-working cast do what they can with the material, but it’s impossible to bring life to this stiff of a play.

Ex-theatrical stage manager Robert (Louis Lotorto) spends his life supporting his actress wife, Anne (Mary Gordon Murray): keeping house, tracking business correspondence, cooking meals. He’s happily ensconced in domesticity and is thus startled when Anne announces one day that she’s divorcing him and orders him to clear out of the house.

Robert learns Anne has been influenced in this decision by her psychiatrist, Widdecombe (Larry Cedar), and so he uses his theatrical skills to play a devious game with the unsuspecting shrink who has disrupted his cozy life.

As Robert, Lotorto fares best here, employing a silkily posh British accent and delivering lines such as “I’ve picked up some unfortunate habits in rep” with campy brio. Cedar brings a pained dignity to the unfortunate Widdecombe. Murray manages to deliver emotional authenticity in an implausible role — no small feat.

Kevin Symons struggles with the most poorly written role, that of the semi-dim American Herman, but the fault lies more in Gray’s crudely conceived character than in the perf itself.

Kurt Boetcher’s cleverly designed bilevel set uses every bit of the Colony’s space, including two areas above either side of the stage to represent actors’ dressing rooms, which leads to the oddest element of the production. At several moments in the play, lights go up in the dressing rooms, and the audience can hear the mainstage dialogue over speakers in those dressing rooms, as if to say the audience is watching the play these actors are putting on. This effort pays off in no way whatsoever, a bit of meta-theatrics that frustratingly hints at a complexity that doesn’t exist in the play.

Stage Struck

Colony Theater; 267 seats; $42 top

Production: A Colony Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Simon Gray. Directed by Rick Sparks.

Crew: Sets, Kurt Boetcher; costumes, A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; lighting, Jeremy Pivnick; sound, Cricket Myers; production stage manager, Leesa Freed. Opened, reviewed Feb. 10, 2007. Runs through March 11. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Robert - Louis Lotorto Herman - Kevin Symons Anne - Mary Gordon Murray Widdecombe - Larry Cedar

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