New Lamarre Comedy "Gray Matters" Showcased at Mystic Art Center
By Tony Schillaci and Don Church
Connecticut playwright Jacque Lamarre's new comedy, "Gray Matters" was one of thirty plays that premiered at the 11th-annual Midtown International Theater Festival in New York City in July. This Equity approved showcase then went directly to Mystic Art Center from August 6th through the 8th. "Gray Matters" is currently playing in Hartford through Sunday, Sept. 12, at the Charter Oak Cultural Center. The New York City cast is joined by Hartford-area native Debi Freund.
The play is a production of the Emerson Theater Collaborative in Colchester and its producer, Camilla Ross.
The four well-cast and talented actors in "Gray Matters," members of the Actors Equity Association (ABA), are April Woodall as acclaimed actress Sarah Gray, Steve Sherman as aspiring actor Scott Leeds, Jen Anaya as ingénue Deja Smith, and Kathryn Kates as tough show-biz agent Miriam Burger. All four gave powerful and memorable comedic performances under the capable direction of Joshua Lee Ramos.
The story revolves around Sarah, who collapses onstage during a play-within-the-play performance, and is rushed to a hospital with a serious brain disease. She has no money and no insurance, and no prospects of future work, because she cannot memorize lines. In fact, much of her short-term memory is' damaged, too, so even her moment-to-moment existence is compromised. Sounds like a great premise for a comedy, huh?
Enter high-voltage, prospective-paying roommate Deja; enthusiastic but dumb-as-a-stump fellow actor Scott, and tough-as-Ieather agent Miriam, all of whom try to cheer Sarah while at the same time encourage her to get back to acting. The antics of these well-written characters bring laughter and sympathy to Sarah's predicaments that add weight to the play and explore the timely themes of loneliness, isolation, ageing and professional crisis. With a trio of crazies as her main support system, she should be better in no time at all. Right?
Jacques has a keen understanding of women’s issues, and writes insightfully for female characters - he especially understands the challenges, both in showbiz and in "real life" facing women of a certain age. The zingers are fast and furious, the inside show business jokes are sometimes a bit too inside, but references to 'hot flashes,' Disney's Broadway shows, and other topical woes strongly resonated with the audience.
This work in progress has great potential. A few tweaks and a slowing of some of the dialogue delivery and a bit of tightening will no doubt improve the talented Mr. Lamarre's often laugh-out-loud play.
He's definitely a playwright to watch because his plots, characters, themes, believable dialogue truly reflect his keen understanding of human nature, including its follies and foibles - a true and funny reflection of our times.
If laughter is the best medicine, we are ready for another dose of Lamarre.
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Published by The Resident September 7, 2010
To be published by Metroline News Magazine Friday, September 10, 2010