Check it out! It’s my first guest blogger! Allow me to be a little self-indulgent for a moment and share a review of The Understudy, courtesy of my dear friend, Courtney Romano. True, it’s not exactly what you’d call an unbiased opinion; nonetheless, I thought it would be nice to share. And be sure to visit Courtney’s blog for some amazingly inspiring and articulate thoughts about life, wellness, and creativity. Now I pass you off to Court…
Two disclaimers first: I personally adore every person who worked on this show, and I don’t write reviews. So why should you even keep reading? Well, that’s a good question; I can’t answer that. But why should you have seen The Understudy at The Secret Theatre this past May? Those answers I got.
This team of artistic comrades poured themselves entirely through this play. Not into it. They passed through. Theresa Rebeck wrote this funny, accurate, heartbreaking, soulful, discouraging, uplifting piece of theatre. She distilled this daily battle we call “trying to be an actor” and crafted a living organism for the stage. Now, it could have been very easy to stage the simple ideas, the easy laughs, and the common sense relationships in a piece that’s already full. They could have capped off her words nicely with a kind performance. A polite, engaging, sincere performance.
Or they could meet it with their own fullness. And that’s what they did.
Actors Becca Schneider, Brian Byus, and Craig Hanson met the play with both sophisticated containment and fantastical carbonation. They took a painfully accurate portrayal of modern show business and allowed the structure of Rebeck’s words to be their edges. Their borders. Their landmarks. But then they lived. They allowed the truthiness of her words to inflict them. They opened their real world wounds and let the pretend world seep so deep.
Now listen, I know I’m biased. I told you earlier – I love everyone involved, and I don’t write reviews (I leave that to the pros). But I know what it’s like to be transformed from sitting in a dark room and watching people tell a story. From every angle – direction, design, crew, and company – everyone’s hearts were wrapped up in these words. Does loving the work that much always make good theatre? Not a chance. But when you pair that love with indisputably smart artists, you watch a transformation. They passed through the play, letting it marinate in their bones. They stepped into and out of Rebeck’s words, letting us get close enough to the play’s damage and relief so we felt like we were right next to them the whole time. They loved through the play, and so for a little under two hours, we too felt a whole lot of love.
I don’t know much about much, but this I know – The Understudy at The Secret Theatre told a story worth telling in a way worth telling it.
Written by Theresa Rebeck, Directed by Jenn Haltman
The Secret Theatre
Photo Credit: Jeff Schneider Photography
Pictured: Craig Hanson