Nicholas Gadis, Candy Thomas, Rick Fletcher & Cook Farmer during rehearsal for Critic’s Choice.
Photo-Little Colonel Playhouse
By Ira Levin
Directed by Teresa Wentzel
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Critic’s Choice is a minor play that offers only modest rewards. It falls short of Ira Levin’s best plays: No Time For Sergeants (1958), and Deathtrap (1976), although it is a sturdy plot with some fair opportunities for memorable comedy.
Parker Ballantine is a highly respected theatre critic whose second wife, Angela, manages to find a producer for her first attempt at writing a play. The play’s opening night presents a dilemma for Parker, who insists on reviewing the play, even though he already thinks, from reading it, that it is terrible.
One problem I have with the premise is that it never truly addresses the ethical conflict-of-interest of a husband reviewing his wife’s work. The question is presented almost completely as a personal issue between Parker and Angela, when it seems certain that any professional editor would refuse to allow such a circumstance to occur. It is a rather obvious ethical breach from a time (1960) when, if anything, journalistic standards were higher than they are today.
But once you swallow that implausibility, the play proves engaging enough. This production, directed by Teresa Wentzel, is managed with enough quality to result in solid entertainment. It features a good, mostly underplayed performance from Cook Farmer as Parker, and the best work I have seen from Candy Thomas as Angela. Ms. Thomas builds an authentic head-of-steam for the character’s rage and frustration that might seem a little betrayed by the play’s tidy resolution.
As Parker’s son from a previous marriage, Nicholas Gabis acquits himself well enough in his stage debut, handling a child’s role that carries a fair amount of humorous dialogue with confidence. His real-life mother offstage, Julie Zielinski, also plays his mother onstage, Ivy London, and is a reasonable facsimile of the grand dame cliché, a shallow, vainglorious actress. She’s just good enough to make you nearly forget that Ivy is a neglectful mother almost entirely removed from her son’s life. Rick Fletcher is a more-over-the top example of egocentric theatrical cliche as the play’s director and threat to Parker’s marriage, Dion Kapakos, and Sharon Caldwell provides a sharp-tongued but compassionate turn as Angela’s mother, Charlotte.
The early 1960’s period is adequately represented in a solid set design and costumes that at least do not read as modern (although Angela’s white go-go boots and matching hair band seem about 4 years ahead of 1962).
December 5 – 14, 2014
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]