Theater Review: Comedy Club’s ‘Play On!’ A Playful Surprise

Veteran actors Jody Carman and Marcus Liuzzi portray the roles of Lady Margaret and Lord Dudley in the current Barnstable Comedy Club production ANN M. RING - Veteran actors Jody Carman and Marcus Liuzzi portray the roles of Lady Margaret and Lord Dudley in the current Barnstable Comedy Club production "Play On!"

The Barnstable Comedy Club’s rendition of Rick Abbot’s “Play On!” is an entertaining look into the lives of community theater actors in the days leading up to and including the opening night of their production of “Murder Most Foul.”

The audience is involved from the start and given two programs, one for “Play On!” and another for “Murder Most Foul.”

The show opens with the cast and crew of “Murder Most Foul” meeting for a rehearsal that is pretty much doomed from the start.

Director Marti Baker uses the entire theater space in such a way that the audience feels as though they are invisible witnesses to the entire process, including having the director of “Murder Most Foul,” Geraldine Dunbar, played with appropriate frustration by Ann M. Ring, spending the first two acts directing her hopeless cast from a director’s chair in the audience.

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The actors are further hampered by their play’s neurotic author, Phyllis Montague, making script changes and impeding their performances every step of the way. Keely Sorenson is perfectly cringe-worthy in the role.

The crew of “Murder Most Foul” consists of April Womble, who plays stage manager Aggie Manville, and Taylor Seaward as hammer-happy lighting and sound tech Louise Peary. Both actors have a lot of theater experience and play their roles in such a way that only comes with experiencing the downfalls of being a crew member.

The remaining cast of “Play On!” are good actors portraying terrible actors with horrible accents. Jessica Anne McDowell portrays a lovably ditzy Violet Embry, who is carrying on a secret relationship with Billy Carewe, played by Bob Lively, who aptly portrays that one person in every cast who claims to have it all together when they really do not.

Jesse Romano plays high school biology enthusiast Marion Smith, and he does a wonderful job demonstrating the opening night jitters that a young boy cast as a maid in a community theater production might feel.
Marcus Liuzzi plays Henry Benish as a man nervously supporting his wife as he makes his stage debut. Some of the most fun of the show is the witty rivalry between the acting veteran Polly Benish (Jody Carmen) and her hilarious antagonist Saul Watson (Rob Thorne). Ms. Carmen and Mr. Thorne play off each other with incredible finesse.

Come opening night for “Murder Most Foul,” it is a case of everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong.

This is a show where the cast comes together well as an ensemble and no one actor stands out above the rest, nor does any one actor bring the show down. They work together well to deliver well-timed jokes as well as prop humor. “Play On!” works well as a play-within-a-play comedy and is augmented by a truly capable cast that seem to be having fun together.

It can at times be difficult to hear some of what the actors are saying, but this is solely because the audience cannot stop laughing.

“Play On!” continues on May 30, 31, June 6, and 7 at 8 PM and June 1 and 8 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $18 and $16 for students and seniors. “Play On!” is the final show of the Barnstable Comedy Club’s regular season.

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