Regional Reviews: Phoenix
After his wife leaves him, film magazine writer Allan Felix elicits the help of his best friends, husband and wife Dick and Linda Christie, to help him navigate his way back into the dating scene. But Allan's overactive imagination and fixation on Humphrey Bogart, whom he continually seeks advice from, only add to his anxiety.
Director Bob Feugate has done a lovely jobhe not only found a cast that ensures Allen's humorous dialogue gets big laughs, but they also make the characters believable and not just caricatures delivering a series of punch lines. He also achieves a superb 1970s look and feel for the entire production and keeps the pace swift. The Fountain Hills stage is quite small but that doesn't stop Feugate from using it to his advantage. This is most effective in how he makes the numerous fantasy sequences in the play quick and seamless with the scenes before and after them, with characters quickly appearing from several areas of the stage, even coming through the walls.
As Allan, Wade Moran delivers a nuanced performance that has echoes of Woody Allen's well-known obsessive traits without becoming a complete impersonation. Moran easily manages to make us care for Allan despite his many irrational moments. He also does well in getting some big laughs while constantly fumbling over his words and putting himself in some very uncomfortable positions. It is a winning performance.
Van Rockwell and Ashley Miller are good as Dick and Linda, with Rockwell's portrayal of the ambitious businessman a nice counterpoint to Moran's nebbish Allan. Miller is believable as the woman who makes Allan realize that he is best when he is just being himself and not trying to impress someone. The scenes Miller and Moran have together are genuine and heartfelt. Timothy Pittman gives a solid portrayal of Humphrey Bogart and an expert and measured delivery of the advice Bogart gives. This is especially good since it is all written as if came directly from a Bogart film and Pittman has a good enough handle on the part to not turn his scenes into over-the-top comedy. Autumn Star Carlton, Kendra Lytle, and Jennifer Harrington round out the cast with Carlton a gem as Allan's sarcastic ex-wife and Harrington fun as several women that Allan encounters as he stumbles his way through the dating scene.
Creative elements are excellent. Peter J. Hill's evocative and attractive set and the wonderful costumes from Gail Oliphant bring the 1970s back to life in full force, complemented by Bob and Alisa Feugate's property designs and the hair and makeup creations by Patsy Johnson and Marybeth Ingram. Hill also supplies the rich lighting design which Feugate combines effectively with Todd Carrie's fun sound design to make the numerous flashbacks and fantasy sequences have resonance.
Charming, short, and sweet, and also a little silly, Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam is a swift moving comedy with characters you care about. With a good cast, solid direction and lovely creative elements, Fountain Hills Theater's production is a winner.
Fountain Hills Theater's production of Play It Again, Sam runs through April 17th, 2016, with performances at 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd. in Fountain Hills. Information on tickets can be found at www.fhtaz.org or by calling 480-837-9661.
Director: Bob Feugate