Photo by Ed Krieger
Photo by Ed Krieger
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Voice Lessons

 

Reviewed by Deborah Klugman

Atwater Village Theatre

Through February 22

 

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We’ve all known folks with outsized perspectives on their own talent or worth.  Justin Tanner’s funny hour-long play turns on an encounter between Ginny (Laurie Metcalf), a screechy community theater performer with diva aspirations, and Nate (French Stewart), a reserved but financially pressed vocal coach who reluctantly agrees to give her lessons.

 

Their meetings take place in Nate’s shabby apartment, whose genteel pretensions, like Nate himself, are inferred by its faded oriental rug and purplish tie-back curtains (set by Gary Guidinger). Ginny, by contrast, favors brightly-colored track suits and sips from a humungous 7-Eleven drink.  Brash and braying, she dismisses Nate’s suggestions that he may be the wrong teacher for her, and ultimately secures his services with a large advance and triple his hourly rate.

 

Unfortunately for Nate, his misgivings prove well-founded. The tone-deaf Ginny not only resists instruction, instead taking every opportunity to trumpet her innate gifts (as she sees them), she also develops the notion that Nate finds her irresistible, and that sexual congress between them is inevitable.  This brings her into conflict with Sheryl (Maile Flanagan), Nate’s live-in girlfriend, and by happenstance a former acquaintance of hers on the community theater circuit.

 

As with the best farce, Tanner’s play works from a truthful premise about human behavior.  Here that premise is the inclination of many of us to advertise ourselves as who we would like to be, rather than who we are –- and treating other people accordingly.  Metcalf, a master comedienne, creates a character who personifies this narcissism in the extreme, delivering an outrageous performance only an artist of her caliber could execute without misstep. The equally gifted Stewart plays flawless straight man.

 

Still, the show – a revival of a 2009 production originally directed by Bart DeLorenzo – could use tweaking.  While this latest effort preserves DeLorenzo’s input (this is specifically stated in the program), it lacks his direct participation.  As adept as she is, Metcalf’s explosive zaniness, sans directorial eye, is missing a fresh edge.  And Flanagan, another comedy veteran, relies on the air of belligerent wackiness she’s brought to so many roles in the past, rather than fashioning a persona specific to this story.

 

Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Atwater; Sat, 7  & 9 p.m.; Sun.,  5 & 7 p.m.; through Feb. 22. https://www.plays411.com/voicelessons

 

 

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