Poignant & Hilarious Debut for Aside Productions

What a surprise awaits those who find their way tomorrow night to an “Evening of Original Plays,” deliciously served up by the Woodlands newest theatrical troupe, Aside Productions. The brainchild of company founder, James Canfield, this talented collaboration of actors and playwrights will be an exciting addition to the area’s ever-growing theatre scene. From comedy to drama, they are covering it all and doing it superbly.

First up was “The Memoir,” written by Kristine Carr, and directed by Rachael Camp. As with each of the plays, just a few folding screens, some tables and chairs, and a handful of props suffice to set the scene. It is the fine acting offered that steals the show. In “Memoir,” Jennyfer Vargas gives a poignant performance as Kit, the loving nine year-old daughter of brilliant and drug-addicted author, Edward Carson (Noel Yuri-Bermudez). Ed’s addiction confuses his young daughter, (“I didn‘t want him to be a great writer. I wanted him to be a great father!”), and his addiction is too much for wife Rebecca (passionately played by Toni Casserly). Amid the turmoil the marriage collapses, tragically separating father and daughter in the process. In an interesting series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, we meet Mr. Carson’s young intern, another brilliant writer named Jeremy ( a convincing performance from Ryan Elliot). Learning of her father’s death, we peek into Kit’s future at the age of 21 (Sidney Rascoe), see sparks of wrangling and romance between her and Jeremy, and discover that Rebecca may be unfavorably characterized in a memoir discovered to have been left as the final literary work of her late husband. The tensions and revelations take fascinating twists and turns, and while the actors were sometimes too soft-spoken to be clearly heard, the performances were generally powerful and, at times, riveting. Miss Carr’s script is full of imagination and thought-provoking lines. How about this caution to budding writers: “Sometimes you can’t see what you want with your eyes open. You can’t make up a world while you’re looking at this one. ”

Next on the bill was the short (ten minutes) and shattering, “World Collapsing,” written and directed by Mr. Canfield, and featuring Kendall McClellan as Kathryn, a woman whose husband is feared to be one of the prior day’s victims in the World Trade Center tragedy of 9-11. Complications abound as Laurie (Kristine Carr), the husband’s mistress, arrives to comfort Kathryn, and bring her a gift. I hesitate to say more, as this is a terrific ten minutes of both stunning theatre and unexpected developments. I was in New York City on 9-11, and suffice it to say there were tears in my eyes when this short scene concluded. McClellan and Carr give knockout performances.

Finally, and very amusingly, we have the “Boss of Boston,” wittily written by Tyler Lewis, and riotously directed by Diane Goldsmith. Not long ago I enjoyed reading the interviews with famed stage actors, Alfred Lunt and his wife, Lynn Fontanne, that were included in the landmark volume, “Actors Talk About Acting,” by Lewis Funke and John E. Booth. The renowned couple spoke definitively of how comedy is the most difficult genre for actors to master. It must also be thus for the playwright, but none of that difficulty stopped the ASIDE players from providing a truly hilarious “Boss of Boston.” We meet amusing young Danny (a delightfully silly Josiah Miller) as he is applying for a position at the successful manufacturing plant of Hammond Enterprises. Like a reincarnation of the late Peter Sellers, Mr. Yuri-Bermudez has a brilliant comic turn as Frank, the company’s owner, and the richest man in Boston. As the company boss, his zany, wide-eyed, and almost robotic characterization anchors the endless hilarity. He is surrounded by an equally uproarious cast of characters at the plant that are linked together in a series of related sketches so consistently funny that the audience was roaring with laughter most of the time. We have the comically stiff and inexpressive receptionist, Agnus (Taylor Moessinger), the company’s nutty singing trio “creative team” of Harry, Garry, and Larry, (Joe Dougherty, John Watkins, Joshua Mullis), the slinky and weirdly weight-conscious, Cheryl (Cecily Breaux), the very threatening Vinnie (Santiago Delgado), the boorish jokester, Jet (A.J. Rogers), and Corey Smothers as the boss’s sexy and fickle wife, Stacy. Andrew Novak adds to the fun portraying “Every Other Part,” sometimes in drag. Even the scene changes are hilarious, with vaudeville-style announcement signs, various song bits, and silly dance routines to pop tunes as cast members shuffle furniture about. With Miller, Bermudez and Smothers heading the pack, every member of this cast is an absolute riot, and together they keep the crowd in stitches. That Lewis could dream all this up, and Goldsmith could so perfectly direct this comical romp, left me wondering about one thing. I am old enough to remember when “Saturday Night Live” was still funny. These actors weren’t even born then, but let’s send them to New York to rescue the show. We’re talking FUNNY here!

Readers have one more chance to get in on the “Evening of New Plays” fun, tomorrow, Monday August 4th, at 7p.m. in The Woodlands Community Center at the corner of Lake Robbins Dr. and Grogan’s Mill in The Woodlands. Tickets ($5.00) will be available at the door. Some content may not be suitable for children. For further information visit the website at www.AsideProductions.org.

(The Courier   8.3.08)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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