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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

The Actor's Nightmare and The Real Inspector Hound
Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of West Side Story and Cock

Kelly Elizabeth Smith, Jessie Taylor, Jacob Sherburne, and Rob Glauz
Photo by Frank Atura
I love the Asolo Conservatory for Actors Training productions because the plays are chosen to challenge the second year students and are usually directed with a keen sense of each one's style. This year's opening presentation of The Actor's Nightmare and The Real Inspector Hound offers two comedies about the theater with similar absurdest styles. The Actor's Nightmare is by Christopher Durang and calls to mind his later masterpiece Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, while The Real Inspector Hound is by Tom Stoppard.

Conservatory director Greg Leaming directs more to the absurd than the comedy. In The Actor's Nightmare George Spelvin (played by Scott Kuiper), an accountant, finds himself on a stage commandeered by everyone around him to step into a role he knows nothing about. From there he finds himself stumbling through scenes from several well known plays which include Private Lives and Hamlet. The comedy comes from the absurdity of the goings on. On the night I attended, the audience seemed to be smiling more than laughing out loud. Mr. Kuiper manages to be an island of sanity, telescoping his complete confusion regarding what is going on around him while Danielle Renella, Jillian Courtney, Kelly Elizabeth Smith, Mike Perez and Wyatt McNeil as the other members of a theater company swirl dizzyingly around him.

In The Real Inspector Hound Stoppard has created a multi-layered farce as two theater critics Moon and Birdboot, played by Brett Mack and Brandon Maldonado, are reviewing a murder mystery populated by Jillian Courtney as Mrs. Drudge, Rob Glauz as Simon Gascoyne, Kelly Elizabeth Smith as Felicity Cunningham, Jessie Taylor as Cynthia Muldoon, Jacob Sherburne as Major Magnus Muldoon, and Michael Fisher as Hound. George Spelvin is credited with the role of The Body (dead) but in truth it is played by Wyatt McNeil. Both critics become part of the cast and cast members stand in, or actually sit in for them. Leaming has drilled his fine cast in the high style of the English murder mystery. They so own the style that I was thinking about phoning another theater company to recommend them for roles in an upcoming production of The 39 Steps. It is all great fun, but I could not help but notice that both of these plays owe a great debt to the French "theater of the absurd" of Genet and Ionesco.

A basic setting by Chris McVicker for The Actor's Nightmare becomes more elaborate for The Real Inspector Hound. The costumes by Becki Leigh find all the right balances between the absurd and the sort of reality of these plays. Sound design by Rew Tippin allows this hard of hearing critic to understand all of the dialogue, with a great flourish of my cap to voice and speech coach Patricia Delorey, always an asset for every Asolo Rep production.

Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training presents The Actor's Nightmare and The Real Inspector Hound through November 22, 2015, at the Cook Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit

The Actor's Nightmare Cast: George Spelvin: Scott Kuiper, Meg: Danielle Renella, Sarah Siddons: Jillian Courtney, Dame Ellen Terry: Kelly Elizabeth Smith, Henry Irving: Mike Perez, The Executioner: Wyatt McNeill

The Real Inspector Hound Cast: Moon: Brett Mack*, Birdboot: Brandon Maldonado, Mrs. Drudge: Jillian Courtney, Simon Gascoyne: Rob Glauz, Felicity Cunningham: Kelly Elizabeth Smith, Cynthia Muldoon: Jessie Taylor, Major Magnus Muldoon: Jacob Sherburne, Hound: Michael Fisher, The Body: George Spelvin (Wyatt McNeil). *=Member of Actor's Equity Association

Directed by Greg Leaming, Set and Lighting Designer: Chris McVicker, Costume Designer: Becki Leigh, Sound Designer: Rew tippin, Stage Manager Devon Muko, Voice and Speech Coach: Patricia DeLorey

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