EVIDENCE ROOM PRESENTS
Alexandra Page - John Fleck
Director - Bart DeLorenzo
Assistant Director - Megan Mullally
Stage Manager - Tracey McAvoy
September 17 - November 19, 2005
Mandy Freund (Eve), Sean Runnette (Hal), Dorie Barton (Alison), Tony Abatemarco (Simon), Shannon Holt (Jayne), and John Fleck (Alexandra)
Los Angeles Times
Great theater can be immensely entertaining, profoundly thought-provoking or artistically inventive; She Stoops to Comedy at Evidence Room manages all three at once. David Greenspan’s brilliant, hilarious and impeccably performed six-actor deconstruction of a modern-day Elizabethan farce finds vitality, renewal and delight at the unlikely heart of theatrical artifice.
With classical elements of gender reversal, lust and mistaken identity wrapped in archly self-aware postmodernism, the act of writing the play figures as prominently as its performance.
While the author never appears as a character, his voice regularly intrudes through his creations as he ponders where the piece is heading, considers rewrites and movingly reflects on the ultimate value of his art. In less capable hands, self-indulgence would be a real danger. But not here. Rarely has the exploration of the creative process dovetailed so effectively with universal emotional needs and psychological truths.
Greenspan starred in the original New York production, but even he would be hard-pressed to fault performance artist John Fleck’s pitch-perfect turn in the gender-bent role of Alexandra Page, a lesbian stage diva whose career and love life are foundering. That Fleck never appears in drag is only the first of many ingeniously upended expectations the play has in store.
The reason: Alex’s lover, Alison (Dorie Barton), has been cast in a distant regional production of As You Like It, and in a desperate bid to salvage their rocky relationship, Alex disguises himself as a man and follows her. When the actor playing opposite Alison drops out, Alex auditions and lands the lead role of Orlando. Alison’s inevitable attraction to Alex’s male alter ego begets a dizzying cycle of divided loyalties and confused sexual identities that engulfs the rest of the company.
The director (Sean Runnette) and his girlfriend/assistant (Mandy Freund) grapple with increasingly fluid personal and professional boundaries. Shannon Holt delivers a confrontation of show-stopping hilarity between her two characters: an actress who rivals Alex in melodrama, and her ex-lover, whose occupation keeps changing to suit the needs of the scene.
Coaxing heartbreaking eloquence from a list of discarded plot summaries about a failed life, a lonely middle-aged gay actor (Tony Abatemarco) parallels the ruminations of melancholy Jaques in As You Like It.Though engaging in its own right, the play’s web of allusions adds even more resonance. It isn’t essential to spot the playful reference to another Orlando (Virginia Woolf’s gender-switching protagonist) or the origins of the penultimate scene’s Q&A format in the interrogatory narrative technique from the Ithaca chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses – but it helps. You’d have to be asleep to get no fun from director Bart DeLorenzo’s inspired production, but the more smarts you bring, the better.
– Philip Brandes
Playwright David Greenspan has cooked up a delicious comic salmagundi, with a plot borrowed from Molnar’s The Guardsman and Shakespeare’s As You Like It, garnished with Pirandellian meta-theatrical hijinks. Lesbian diva Alexandra Page (John Fleck) has been dumped by her inamorata, Alison (Dorie Barton), who’s just been cast as Rosalind in the Bard's cross-gendered comedy. In an attempt to recapture Alison, Alexandra disguises herself as a male actor and improbably wins the role of Orlando. (Fleck deftly acts all the transformations without benefit of costume changes.) Tony Abatemarco plays an embittered, self-loathing, alcoholic homosexual actor who regards his role as unnecessary ("Do we need another play about this man?"), and Shannon Holt assumes a double role, as a coolly restrained archaeologist (or maybe a lighting designer, since the playwright hasn’t made up his mind) and a scatty actress. She’s understandably bemused when she discovers that her two characters have a scene together. The play constantly operates on at least two levels of reality as characters step in and out of the play, argue among themselves, skip boring scenes and rewrite others. Director Bart DeLorenzo keeps the action percolating merrily along on Lap-Chi Chu’s sleek, spare set, while Fleck and Holt take top honors among a splendid cast, including Sean Runnette and Mandy Freund.
– Neal Weaver
The uncredited set couldn’t be simpler. A lone bed sits on the cavernous reconverted warehouse stage with a line of metal chairs placed behind it where ensemble members await their entrances. This is a good thing, because these six actors need to rest before resuming their difficult assignment, to tackle the skewed sensibilities and delightfully schizoid world of playwright David Greenspan. At one point, costars John Fleck and Tony Abatemarco share a bit of dialogue comparing something to Charles Ludlam’s Irma Vep, which is ironic for two reasons: Fleck and Abatemarco’s history together in that very play, and the fact that Greenspan is the closest writer emerging to carry the mantle of Ludlam’s uniquely bizarre contribution to modern theatre.
Fleck plays "creature of the stage" Alexandra Page, a melodramatic theatrical diva whose career is in a tailspin. She’s played numerous Phaedras, including one set on the moon, and now she thinks Phaedra should just get over it. Her lover Alison (Dorie Barton) is trying to end her career in musical comedy ("How many times can you be a cockeyed optimist in Pittsburgh?") by taking on the role of Rosalind in a regional mounting of As You Like It. Sensing a riff in their relationship, Alexandra decides to masquerade as a man to audition for Orlando in the same production. As Alexandra, Fleck does not play the role in drag; instead, he wears a button-down dress shirt and slacks, letting his outrageous body language speak for itself. But as Alexandra cross-dresses behind a red velvet curtain to prepare herself for the role of her lifetime, the anticipation about what’s going on is palpable. When Alexandra reenters as Harry Sampson, Fleck is dressed exactly as he was before he went off to change.
No one is more perfect to mine the ridiculousness of this tour de force role then Fleck–unless it’s Fleck working under the inimitable directorship of Bart DeLorenzo. The cast is superb, Greenspan’s breakneck stage-history-infused dialogue bubbles with barely submerged insight between the constant laughs, and DeLorenzo marches his trusting players into some of the year’s best performances. Mention must be made to one remarkable monologue offered by Abatemarco after his character is spurned by Alexandra-as-Harry, and Shannon Holt’s show-stopping turn as both roles she plays join onstage to enact a scene together, a feat so astonishing it makes Sybil look like a lightweight.
– Travis Michael Holder