Relax. Take a deep breath. Slow down. And have fun!
That’s what kept running through my mind during the opening night performance of the Neil Simon comedy “I Ought to be in Pictures” at The Box Theatre in Mt. Clemens.
From the moment the show opened until it ended two hours later, nerves were apparently in the driver’s seat, as the three genuinely likable actors seemed to be more concerned about accidentally dropping lines (and getting through the play) than engaging their fellow actors in conversation. The result, then, often sounded like rote recitation rather than interactive, real-life dialogue – and what got lost was Simon’s humor, along with the emotional connections his characters were developing.
Which is a shame, because that’s what Simon’s play is all about: making connections.
Hollywood scriptwriter Herb Tucker (Mitch Gordon) and his girlfriend Steffy (Caryn Hottle) are stunned by the unexpected arrival of his 19-year-old daughter, Libby (Nicole Romeo), whom he abandoned back in Brooklyn (along with his now ex-wife and son) 16 years earlier. She wants a job in the movies, Libby explains, but has no training or experience. So Libby – hoping to take advantage of her father’s guilt – asks Herb to use his industry connections to help launch her career.
Or so she says.
For this production, The Box reconfigured its cool, black box space to allow seating on three sides of the floor-level playing area. While this allows the audience to be quite close to the action, some of director Nancy Arnfield’s blocking is problematic and awkward. From where I was sitting in the center section, for example, I spent far too much time looking at Gordon’s back while he was talking upstage (usually) to Romeo – who I couldn’t see at all because of their height difference. And placement of a chair upstage hid the action whenever someone was lying down on Libby’s bed.
And if I was truly being picky, I’d wonder why Libby – who had the right attitude – didn’t have even a hint of a Brooklyn accent.
‘I Ought to be in Pictures’
What’s That Smell? at The Box Theatre, 70 Macomb Place, second floor, Mt. Clemens. Oct. 30, Nov. 1, 5-7. $16. 586-954-2677.