Marry Me a Little
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Good People Theatre Company at The Lillian Theatre
Through June 28
This one-act musical, originally conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, attempts to combine a musical revue format with a plot of sorts, concerning a pair of lonely strangers who don’t know each other, though they live in the same building. Each is alone on Saturday night, and each is oblivious of the other.
In Good People Theatre Company’s production, smartly directed by Janet Miller with expert musical direction by Corey Hirsch, the two strangers are played by Jessie Withers and David Laffey. And the 18 songs are all rich but lesser known works by Stephen Sondheim, that were cut from his large-scale musicals, including Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Company, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, and A Little Night Music, among others. The songs include “Can That Boy Foxtrot,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “Uptown, Downtown,” “Marry Me A Little,” “Silly People,” ”Happily Ever After,” and “There Won’t Be Trumpets.”
Of the three productions of the piece this writer has seen, this one comes closest to finding the right balance between the revue format and the plot strands. By applying a light touch to the proceedings, Miller makes the piece go down easily, and she side-steps the logical problems (How do two people unaware of each other perform duets?) and makes it easier to accept some songs like “Pour Le Sport,” which have little relation to the characters.
The two performers have solid voices, stylish delivery, and crisp diction that ensures that we never miss a word of Sondheim’s often tricky lyrics.
Good People Theatre Company at The Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; through June 28. www.hff15.org/2234
Orson Welles & Scatman Crothers in a Hollywood Ending
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Theatre Asylum Lab
Through June 27
It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely pair of compadres than the former Boy Wonder Orson Welles, and the equally versatile actor, singer, and comedian Scatman Crothers, but both played characters in the animated sci-fi film The Transformers: The Movie. For each of them, it proved to be his last film.
Writer-director David Castro imagines the two old pros meeting at auditions for the film. Welles (Rob Locke) is his usual arrogant self, insisting that he’ll perform Falstaff’s “Honor” speech, rather than the absurd sides for the movie. For good measure, he performs the speech on the spot for Scatman (Dennis Neal). When he delivers a litany of complaints about the fact that all of his projects were sabotaged by lack of money or unfeeling studios, Scatman tells him to stop feeling sorry for himself, and reminds him that whatever frustrations he may have endured, he still had a career most actors would kill for.
As they talk, they trade war stories, and Welles recapitulates the greatest hits of his long and colorful career, from Citizen Kane to the infamous radio show The War of the Worlds, to The Third Man. He delivers Harry Lime’s famous speech about the Swiss and their cuckoo clocks, and Kane’s anguished cry of “Rosebud!” Finally, the two actors bond over their mutual admiration for musician Pigmeat Markham.
The piece is essentially a character sketch with little plot or action, so it’s traction depends largely on the skill of the actors. They serve it richly and well. Neal, in particular, delivers a sly, idiosyncratic turn, and Locke is generally a serviceable Welles, aside from his Shakespearean delivery, which can’t compete with Welles’s virtuoso renditions.
Pachyderm Productions at Theatre Asylum Lab, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; through June 27. http://hff15.org/2353