Four reviews are listed here: Bonnie Goldberg, Geary Danihy for the Connecticut Critics Circle, Amy Barry for Shore Publishing community weeklies, online at zip06.com and theday.com, and Zander Opper for Talkin’ Broadway Regional News & Reviews.
TAKE A FRONT ROW SEAT FOR “I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES”
BY BONNIE GOLDBERG
When nineteen year old Libby Tucker arrives from her home in Brooklyn, unannounced and uninvited, on her father’s Hollywood doorstep, she claims she is there to advance her show business career. Her desire to be in the movies is the excuse she gives dad, a man she has not seen or heard from in sixteen years.
Only Neil Simon could conjure up this bittersweet comedy “I Ought to be in Pictures,” and only the Ivoryton Playhouse could provide it such a promising production until Sunday, May 11.
The father-daughter dynamics fuel this family interaction/confrontation. Libby is refreshingly candid, spunky and endearing in the hands of Siobhan Fitzgerald. She wears her heart on the sleeve of her camouflage jacket even as she tries to hide her vulnerability. Her dad, Herb, is a screenwriter who hasn’t made it big YET. He has three failed marriages to his credit and is struggling to make it on all fronts.
Mike Boland is appropriately shocked by Libby’s sudden appearance in his life. With sheepish humor, he tries to justify his past actions and defend his decisions. Libby will have none of that nonsense. He owes her, and owes her in spades, and now is the day of reckoning. She is the steam roller and he is the freshly paved road. His good care in nurturing a lemon and an orange tree do not equal his blatant abandonment of his wife, son and daughter more than a decade and a half ago.
Playing referee in the family squabble is Steffy, a sweet and forgiving Jeanie Rapp, who quietly tries to make everything neat and tied up with a bow. Is Herb able to help his long lost daughter? Can all three of them discover their heart’s desire? Director R. Bruce Connelly makes us care a great deal about this human triangle and root for the long promised happy ending.
For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at
www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Come meet Libby and cheer her on in her quests to find her dad, to discover why he left, to learn if he loves her and, just maybe, to make it in the movies.
PICTURES AND POPPAS
By Geary Danihy
Connecticut Critics Circle
In ancient Greek theater the actors wore masks, a tradition that has come down to us in the form of the familiar “sad” and “happy” masks so often used on the front covers of books about playwriting, in regional theater logos and the ads seen in theater programs. The two masks denote tragedy and comedy, and they are shown together for a good reason, for scratch the surface of a good comedy and you will find beneath it a tragedy neatly averted. The prolific playwright Neil Simon understands this well, for many of his comedies tremble on the brink of tragedy â€“ one false step by one or more of his characters and we no longer have “The Odd Couple” but “Of Mice and Men.” Such is the case with “I Ought to Be in Pictures,” which recently opened at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Simon’s 1980 play, which was subsequently filmed in 1982, is a somewhat bittersweet take on love, family, commitment and parenting given a warm, engaging treatment that, over its run, should mature into a totally satisfying evening of theater.
The premise of this three-character play is relatively simple. Herb (a solid Mike Boland), is a Hollywood screenwriter suffering a writer’s block of glacial proportions who gets an unexpected guest in the form of his 19-year-old daughter Libby (Siobhan Fitzgerald), who has traversed westward from the Bronx to confront the man who left his family 16 years ago. She hopes that he can, among other things, give her an intro into the world of acting. Her appearance on his doorstep disturbs the comfortable relationship he has with Steffy (Jeanie Rapp), a movie studio make-up artist with whom he has had an on-again-off-again “understanding” for the past two years. Libby, after some cajoling, moves in, and the rest of the play deals with the sometimes fractious maturing of the father-daughter relationship which, as a by-blow, also throws light on Herb’s relationship with Steffy.
Under the direction of R.Bruce Connelly, with a period-perfect, down-at-the-heels set by Bill Stark and a subtle, emotive lighting design by Marcus Abbot (several fade-outs are quite notable), the play pleases on many levels and you can’t help but leave the theater with a warm glow. Yet, some directorial decisions (or, perhaps, lack of decisions) form a slight cloud over the production, a cloud that might be easily dissipated.
Boland’s performance is rock solid, conveying both the frustration of a writer who has lost his confidence and, once Libby moves in, a man slowly coming to realize what it means to be a father. However, the cloud, or clouds, as diaphanous as they might be, hang over the two female characters.
Fitzgerald is a delight to watch, but there is a problem with how she delivers, or has been allowed or directed, to deliver her lines. Early in the first act Herb complains that he has suddenly been confronted with and invaded by a daughter who sounds like Marlon Brando. Either Fitzgerald or Connelly, or both, have apparently fixated on that line of dialogue as a cue as to how Fitzgerald should speak and move. The result is Brando channeled through The Fonz via Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny.” It seems forced. stagey, even distracting, and the proof that it can be otherwise comes late in the second act when Libby has a highly emotional scene with Herb. Fitzgerald’s delivery speeds up and, although the Bronx accent is still evident, it does not dominate and therefore seems natural. Perhaps, over the course of the play’s run, if Fitzgerald takes most of the air out of her lines â€“ “You know…what I…mean…dontcha?” — her Bronx background will be just that, a background to a character she appears to be more than capable of bringing to full life.
If Fitzgerald is, at this point early in the run, a bit too over the top, Rapp is just a bit too subdued. Again, a subtle change is all that’s necessary. Right now her character often seems to be on a low dose of Librium (the drug of choice back then). All she needs to do is add a bit of bite to her delivery and her Steffy will come to the fore.
Again, these are early days for “I Ought to Be in Pictures.” Actors settle into roles often only after performing in front of an audience, sensing what does and doesn’t work, and doing a bit of self-evaluation. If Boland holds what he is doing, Fitzgerald brings it down a notch and Rapp ramps it up a bit, then Ivoryton will have a fine, crowd-pleasing production on its hands.
“I Ought to Be in Pictures” runs through May 11. For tickets or more information call 860-767-7318 or go to www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
I Ought to Be in Pictures — Snappy production at Ivoryton Playhouse
By Amy J. Barry
I Ought to Be in Pictures was a mid-career comedy of Neil Simon’s that enjoyed a good run on Broadway in the late ‘70s before it was made into a motion picture directed by Herbert Ross in 1982.
The three-person ensemble is about what happens when Libby, a 19-year-old aspiring actress hitchhikes across country from Brooklyn to LA to meet Herb, the screenwriter father she’s been estranged from for 16 years. Her plan is to discover why her father abandoned her and her brother by moving 3,000 miles away and maybe break into the movies while she’s at it, using her father’s connections.
Although this contemporary comedy is more than 30 years old, the subject matter — divorce — is as current as ever. As unfortunate as it is that divorce is still so prevalent, it helps make the Ivoryton Playhouse production feel relevant rather than dated. The only thing missing is cell phones and texting.
The dialogue between Libby (Siobhan Fitzgerald) and Herb (Mike Boland) feels authentic and heartfelt. Fitzgerald has most of the funny lines in the play, which she delivers in a believable New York accent, such as relaying the conversations she has with her dead grandmother at her graveside.
It’s not easy living up to Tony Curtis, who played Herb in the play and Walter Matthau, who played the role in the film, but Boland is a natural as the curmudgeonly, commitment-phobic writer with writer’s block.
Herb gets his nose out of joint when Libby, who has no acting experience besides as an understudy in an Erasmus High School production of Miss Jean Brodie, has the chutzpah to ask him to help her get into “the pictures.” He thinks she’s just there to take advantage of him. She sees it as the least he can do after being out of contact for most of her life. A lot of verbal sparring — both bittersweet and funny — goes on between them.
The third role is Herb’s on and off again girlfriend, Steffy (Jeanie Rapp). Herb’s growing relationship with Libby forces him to confront his commitment issues with her. Rapp is well cast as the attractive and people-wise girlfriend who gives Herb good advice about how to be a better father to Libby. Steffy becomes increasingly tired of being in a relationship of convenience and Rapp could show more edginess and impatience in her delivery, which is a little too gentle for the message she’s giving Herb.
Although it’s a comedy, there are some moving scenes between father and daughter and in Neil Simon style, the characters show their warts, as well as their ability to grow and change and find forgiveness.
R. Bruce Connelly’s spot-on direction brings the production pleasingly together. Bill Stark has done a good job filling the Playhouse stage with Herb’s 70s style messy bachelor pad, nicely lit by Marcus Abbott. Kari Crowther’s fun costumes are appropriate to the time and place.
Performances of I Ought to be in Pictures continue through May 11 at the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton. Tickets are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing community weeklies, and online at zip06.com and theday.com
Regional Reviews by Zander Opper
My review of “I Ought to Be in Pictures” was just posted and here is the link: