Piedmont Players play it for laughs with ‘Play it Again, Sam’
By Deirdre Parker Smith
Seth Labovitz must have been channeling Woody Allen on opening night of Piedmont Players’ “Play it Again, Sam.”
Labovitz has all the angst and neurosis of the playwright ó even the look ó and he created a laugh-filled evening as Allen Felix, the unluckiest man in love.
The first act chugged slowly for a while. It seemed the cast and the audience weren’t quite sure what was going on. But as they warmed up, the laughs began rolling through the theater.
Also earning whoops and loud applause was Jessica Walker as Linda Christie, wife of Allen’s best friend, wheeler dealer Dick Christie, played by Jonathan Coarsey.
Allen, whose dippy wife has just left him, is bereft. He’ll never love again. No one will ever compare to Nancy, played by Amy Lee. Nancy tells him she just doesn’t love him, among other things.
He lives in a fantasy world where he imagines he’s Humphrey Bogart, “short and ugly” like him, and looks to Bogey’s movies for advice. Unsuccessfully.
Linda kindly fixes him up with models and photographer’s assistants she knows, telling him “just be yourself.”
Instead he leaves open books lying around and impressive recordings, trying to impress the pretty but dim women.
Linda, on the other hand, is attractive and encouraging, sharing many of Allen’s neuroses, along with his stock of tranquilizers and antidepressants. They trade stories about their analysts while Dick, always on the phone, buys 50 acres of quicksand in Florida.
Allen tries Sharon, played by Amber Adams, who thinks he’s a nut. He checks out Gina (Lauren Martz) and Vanessa (Maria Corriher), who don’t want to get close. When go-go girl Lynsey Horn sees him dancing at the disco, she just walks off.
Linda takes him to a museum, so he can try for an intellectual girl. With Allen’s luck, the girl, played by Ivy Overcash, is even more depressed than he is.
It’s all a disaster. But he and Linda have so much in common. … They share the same interests. …
Bogey, played with the right amount of roughness by Robert Hackett, pops in, complete with lighting effects, periodically to give Allen advice. “Just slap her around a little,” he says. “She’s just a dame,” he says.
When Bogey sees Allen and Linda alone together, he urges, “Kiss her!” Allen hesitates. “Kiss her!” Bogey says. Allen fidgets. “Kiss her!” Bogey says. Allen reviews all the consequences of the kiss.
Then the phone rings.
The anticipation is wonderful, and Labovitz is so funny as he ponders and pauses, hyperventilates and worries. When he’s so close, he’s so far away.
How does it all turn out? Hilariously. Labovitz and Walker are at their best in the last few scenes of the play, as he personifies Allen’s fears and missteps.
His imagination of what will happen next is full of old movie scenes.
Look for one last lady, Barbara, played by Kim Hodges, to start something real.
There’s really no physical comedy in this one ó just Woody Allen’s wry, often insider humor. If you’ve never seen an analyst or don’t remember how that was the craze in the ’70s, you may miss a joke or two. Woody Allen finds sex very confusing and funny ó some of his best movies use that theme again and again.
If the short skirts, wild prints and white vinyl boots don’t take you back, then you’re young enough to be wearing them for the first time.
With one 20-minute intermission, you’ll be out by 9:15, after having a funny evening.
Director Reid Leonard makes good on the old adage, “Make ’em laugh.”
“Play it Again, Sam” continues tonight and Saturday and July 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Meroney Theater. The production is underwritten by Wooden Stone and Woodleaf Lanes. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.