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Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Hilarious new comedy at Dreamcatcher in Summit


Hilarious new comedy opened this past weekend at the Oakes Center in Summit, the home of the excellent professional Dreamcatcher Repertory Company. The play, a co-production of  Dreamcatcher and Playwrights Theatre, is Suzanne Bradbeer's “Shakespeare in Vegas.” Bradbeer is the award-winning playwright of “Full Bloom” and “You Miss Them When They're Not Around” previously produced by the Dreamcatcher company. The Playwrights Theatre and Dreamcatcher Rep both had a role in the development of “Shakespeare in Vegas” via a series of new play readings.

The collaboration between Dreamcatcher and Playwrights nicely involves the Artistic Directors of both companies.The comedy is directed by John Pietrowski (Long Valley), Artistic Director of Playwrights Theatre of NJ, and features Laura Ekstrand (Livingston), Artistic Director of Dreamcatcher.

Laura Ekstrand  is wonderful as Margot a New York classical actress who has been less than successful in both her stage career and personal life.   She eagerly signs a contract to star in a new out-of-town theatre devoted to the works of the “Bard.” The out-of-town location, of course, is the Sin City of Las Vegas and the producer, Tony, is a  New York wise guy with no theatre experience who dreams of bringing Shakespeare to the desert. It is his way of honoring his late Sardinian grandmother who shared his love of Shakespeare and ending a generations old family curse. Eli Ganias, who participated in the Playwrights’ 2011 reading of “Shakespeare in Vegas,” is better than perfect as Tony.

The fun begins when he casts the first play of the season, “Anthony and Cleopatra” with Margot as the Queen of the Nile. Short on available talent and cash, Tony casts the play with inexperienced locals, including a showgirl (actually a stripper) played nicely by Rachael Lee as Colette. For his second play his casting of “Romeo and Juliet” includes an ex-con twenty years younger than Margot as Romeo (Barron B. Bass). Bass, a recent Rutgers drama grad, is impressive in his dual roles. Enough of the plot, this is a funny, mad-cap ride that may not be Shakespearean “high-brow” theater but it is a terrific way to spend time with a cast obviously having as much fun on stage as the audience.

When asked what inspired her to write “Shakespeare in Vegas,” playwright Suzanne Bradbeer states that she  was commissioned to write a short play with the theme of ‘theft’ for The Drilling Company in New York City. “In thinking about theft, I decided to write about one actor stealing a scene from another and I felt that it should be an actor with a small role stealing a scene from the lead. Cleopatra and her handmaiden seemed like good candidates for this. That short play (“Fear and Loathing on the Nile”) is now the second scene in “Shakespeare in Vegas” and I so loved the characters in that original play that I decided to expand it to full length.”

Playing the part of the scene stealer Merrie Jo, is Jessica O’Hara-Baker, one of our favorite members of the Dreamcatcher Rep company. She is a “hoot” in this wild part. A relationship with the chesty “Hooters” restaurant chain enters into the plot.

The production team includes scenic designer, Drew Francis; lighting designer, Zach Pizza; sound designer, Jeff Knapp; costume designer, Pia Kristjansen; prop master, Danielle Constance Pietrowski; stage manager, Amy Hadam; assistant stage managers, Brenna Singman and Rachel Pribish; and assistant director, Megan Barrios.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  April 6, 2013

"Shakespeare in Vegas" will run at Dreamcatcher from Thursday, April 4 through Sunday, April 21. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $25 for seniors and students, with special rates for subscribers and groups. Purchase tickets online at www.dreamcatcherrep.org or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006.

Performances are at The Oakes Center, located at 120 Morris Avenue in Summit. Parking is available in the lot behind the theatre on Ashwood Avenue and at the Summit Recreation Center on Morris Avenue. The facility is wheelchair accessible.

Assistive Listening devices for the hearing impaired and advance large print scripts are available by prior arrangement. To purchase tickets or for information on any of Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre's programs, please visit www.dreamcatcherrep.org or contact Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre at The Oakes Center, 120 Morris Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901, 908-514-9654.

 Cast photos by Steve McIntyre:

Rachael Lee and Laura Ekstrand
Barron B. Bass, Eli Ganias and Laura Ekstrand
Jessica O'Hara-Baker, Barron Bass, Racheal Lee, Eli Ganias, Laura Ekstrand

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