Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Review of Once in a Lifetime at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Once in a Lifetime. It was by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and it was directed by Damon Kiely. It was about these three friends--George (Scott Danielson), May (Kat McDonnell), and Jerry (Michael Dailey)--who had worked on a vaudeville show and they heard about talking pictures and they decided to go to Hollywood to open up a school of elocution. So now they are trying to find out the secrets of Hollywood but also make a living. It was about trying to make your way in Hollywood, the trials and tribulations of writing, and friendship. I thought this was a really fun show. I enjoyed it a lot and thought it was a great last show for Strawdog in this space.

One of my favorite scenes was where Lawrence Vail (Paul Fagen) was in the waiting room at Glogauer's (Jamie Vann) studio and he said that he'd been waiting there for four weeks. But then it ended up that he actually worked there, and he still couldn't get in to talk to Mr. Glogauer because they kept thinking he was just a drunk and crazy man. That is what the incompetent and forgetful secretary Miss Leighton (Nicole Bloomsmith) says about him while she was actually looking for him and he is following her around. I thought that was a really funny running gag. It is saying that the writers are very under-appreciated and that the people who are making the movie never really think about the writers. Vail was a very sympathetic character because he didn't really get his shining moment when he really deserved it; he was hired to write for a famous producer but then they never really gave him a chance.

Anderson Lawfer and Michaela Petro were a comedy duo who almost every time one of them was onstage, the other one was too. A bunch of times they played Phyllis (Lawfer) and Florabel (Petro) who were two actresses who had been doing silent films and now that talkies had come out, they needed to learn how to talk well. And their voices were so crazy-sounding that you thought they might be hopeless voice students. They were so exaggerated and they had such hilarious voices that it made me laugh whenever they were on stage. They were also a comedy duo when they were electricians coming to fix something, and then Lawfer starts humming a song and Petro asks if that is his song, and he says it is but it is a song that is famous now. They also played a duo of lackeys who were always hanging around Glogauer and would do anything that he wanted them to do. Petro had this fabulous lipstick like Betty Boop and she had cat-eye glasses which made an awesome look.

George has made his way in Hollywood but kind of left May and Jerry behind, but he still lets them work for him. George is so successful because he can make decisions on the spot and even if they seem like they won't work, they somehow always work out. I thought that was another very funny joke that kept on happening: that everything that George did worked out, even if it was very dumb. And what he does to make himself seem smart is he quotes people who are smarter than he is from the newspaper, like Helen Hobart (Justine C. Turner), or from people, like Vail, who he has been talking to. I think that it is very sweet that he wants to help May and Jerry even though they aren't as powerful as he is. He also wants to help Susan (Sarah Goeden) who is his girlfriend and he helps her on her rise to fame being an actress in a movie directed by Kammerling (Brandon Saunders), who is a crabby German director. George was a great character. One of my favorite George moments was when he was offered cigarettes by a very flirty cigarette girl (Kamille Dawkins) and he was like "No" in a very confused tone. I don't think he understood that she might be offering more than cigarettes. Sometimes you get terrified for him when he does something that is clearly going to make people mad, but then when he gets away with it you feel happy for him. My favorite instance of this is when he bought all these airplanes but then it turned out well because other studios needed them for a movie. I won't say what his last big amazing decision is, but they play a Miley Cyrus song which is appropriate for the play and for Strawdog.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy-sounding movie actresses, hilariously incompetent secretaries, and a lot of airplanes. I think people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was very funny and clever and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Tom McGrath

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