After much preparation and a few postponements (courtesy of the City of Fullerton), Stages has made the big step of moving from a hidden Anaheim industrial park to downtown Fullerton. Though the new location is justa strip mall, the interior of the theater is impressive:a well-equipped and honest-to-god real theater.
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Inaugurating its first season at the new address, Stages wisely decided to revive its 1998 production of Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play, which is about the nuttiness of working on Broadway. Smartly updated, the comedy follows the nerve-racking anticipation of waiting for opening-night reviews.
Director Amanda DeMaio and her cast demonstrate the professional work small theater companies can do if given enough fine-tuning. Both the technical aspects and acting are high-caliber. The well-assembled cast conveys nothing but sincere regard for their over-the-top roles. Even the most neurotic characters are entertaining without being irritating. K.C. Mercer balances cockiness with vulnerability to make the klepto director, Frank Finger, disturbingly likable. Cynthia Ryanen is hysterical as Virginia Noyes, the Liza Minnelli-like actress trying to make her comeback.
But this is a play that outstays its welcome. After a quick-paced and witty first act, Act Two is a letdown—as one of the characters so succintly puts it. During the many slow moments, you may reflect on the possibility that McNally could have condensed the play into a One Act, but instead decided to drag it out. So much time is spent awaiting the dreaded New York Timesreview that when it was finally read, I couldn't help but feel a small sense of relief that the end of the play was near.
It's Only a Play at Stages, 400 E. Commonwealth, Ste. 4, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. Through Sept. 4. $12.