Louis Robert Thompson & Chavon Lewis in All My Passions.
Photo courtesy of Little Colonel Playhouse.
All My Passions
By Vin Morreale, Jr.
Directed by Teresa Wentzel
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Little Colonel Playhouse is known for romantic comedies, drawing room mysteries, and American theatre classics, but recently they have shown some desire to break that mold – at least slightly. Now they have produced an original play by a local writer Vin Morreale, Jr., and while it doesn’t move very far from the company’s comfort zone, it is an embrace of a local playwright, and that is always a welcome thing.
All My Passions is a behind-the-scenes satire of daytime television soap opera, focusing on a fictional show titled, of course, All My Passions, that centers on an aging lothario of a lead actor (John Lina) who has grown increasingly delusional from his 49-year reign as star. He even legally changed his name to that of his character, Everett Montague. A letter writing campaign by family values proponent Hamilton Bennett (Cameron Connor), railing against the increasingly high degree of sleaze dominating the storylines results in the network executive Newman Forrester (Jim McGrady) hiring Bennett as Story Editor. The highly improbable action is meant to neutralize the bad press, but the straight arrow Bennett winds up ingratiating himself to Forrester and producer Melissa Mulcahey (Candy Thomas), and having an unexpected influence on the show.
In real life, daytime drama has also fallen on hard times, with the cancellation of iconic shows in favor of talk shows and Reality TV, so for Morreale to have made them his target seems apt, but also curiously dated. Certainly the sad and pathetic character of Montague can represent the dying, antiquated form that peaked in the 1970’s, but the conceit of high ratings resulting from a return to decency is a sure turn into fantasy.
Besides the ridiculous and vain Montague, (Mr. Lina has great fun with an absurd toupee) Forrester is a gruff, cigar-chomping cliché of an old-school Hollywood producer, which Mr. McGrady captures perfectly. More nuanced writing and playing defines the central relationship of Mulcahey and Bennett, and Mr.Connor and Ms. Thomas do earnest and thoughtful work here. There are two caricaturist parodies of soap actors from Stephen Koller as a self-absorbed young stud, and Ariel Edlin, a brightly comic highlight as a bubble-headed starlet. The large cast also includes Julie Zielinski as an actress on the show dressed in a skimpy French maid costume and usually found in Montague’s lap, and Andrew Mertz playing both a dishy show biz television correspondent and Forrester’s assistant, who is both a nebbish and a sycophant. Mr. Mertz is very funny in both small roles.
Louis Robert Thompson is very good as the director, as is Bryant Wayne Combs as a naïve, fresh out-of-high school head writer. Together they make a well-balanced comic duo, and Leila Toba is on stage far too briefly in the role of an actress being clumsily seduced by Montague in the opening scene. Her comic edge would have been welcome throughout the play. The same could be said for Chavon Lewis, who shows up late in the story as a mysterious woman from Bennett’s past. In fact, just when the play feels as if it has resolved its story satisfactorily, Morreale continues with two substantial scenes that, while not at all badly written, seem superfluous to the main plot. The first is an interaction between Thompson and Lewis that is sly and funny enough to make you wish for them to be paired together in their own play. She is delightfully sharp, sexy, and forward, while he is a hapless delight, slow to realize what her character has been up to. The final scene is another duet that introduces Sharon Horton Becher as an old flame of Montague’s who has returned a wealthy widow. Again, it’s a nice enough scene and played well enough by Ms. Becher and Mr.Lina, but its only purpose seems to be to redeem Montague from his one-dimensional comic persona, which kind of undercuts the satirical bite of the earlier passages.
Otherwise All My Passions is a knowing and funny lampoon that offers good opportunity for the cast to land plenty of good jokes. For the most part the actors shine and the audience is entertained. It can claim both a little more spirit than we might be used to at Little Colonel, and an easy, no-nonsense inclusion of multi-racial characters. Morreale makes little fuss about this in his writing, which just makes it all the more important that it not be taken for granted.
All My Passions
March 11, 12, 17, 18, & 19 at 7:30pm
March 12 & 20 at 2:00pm
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Pewee Valley, Kentucky 400
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on ARTxFM/WXOX-LP, 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.