A play being acted for us that is also a play where our actors are actors acting for themselves. Sound confusing? Actually, in Paul Weitz’s well-crafted Show People, there is less confusion than fun for us as audience as the actors themselves become increasingly confused and perplexed in all their mixed-up roles of stage and reality.
As the play opens, a young entrepreneur has hired a former Broadway acting husband-and-wife team to become his parents for the weekend at his beachside, upscale home in order to help him convince his girlfriend to marry him. The opening minutes are right out of a 50s sitcom, with more than a few complications still to come into this play within a play, meaning the fun for us as an audience has just begun. What is an act and what is not, when the script is from their made-up play and when from the actors’ real lives becomes jumbled; and tensions, confusion, and even fear are not that far away from taking over the unfolding scenes.
Monica Cappuccini and Bill Davidovich are very convincing as the has-been acting couple who are financially desperate for this gig, no matter how bizarre it appears upfront or how much more so it gets. Ms. Cappuccini’s Marnie is New-York cool and sophisticated and seems to have walked off a Neal Coward stage into this new scene. Marnie turns it on ‘in role’ to be the loving mother and wife but also quickly and often returns to her more natural, long-term role as sardonic commentator of others’ faults. Trying to keep his wife in the required role for the weekend, Mr. Davidovich is hilarious as the often over-dramatic and emotional Jerry, utilizing, for example, broad, out-stretched arms repeatedly to portray his ‘warmth of a father.’. His facial expressions are entire scripts onto themselves as he watches the play going on around him and reacts in what he believes is exactly what some invisible director is demanding. As the younger couple, Tom and Natalie, Casey Robbins and Sara Morris certainly have their moments to shine and amuse. Ms. Morris is convincing as the immature, wanna-be actress Natalie who, as it turns out, is also playing a surprise role during this crazy weekend. Sometimes though, it is difficult to tell if some of her obvious shortcomings (like stumbled lines) as an actress are intended as part of her role in the play within our play or are authentically Ms. Morris’. Mr. Robbins is also in real life an actor still young in his career, and his portrayal of Tom, who has set up this entire weekend play, is often just too overdone and certainly too over-shouted. But his efforts are still often funny and certainly forgivable in this overall fun and funny ensemble.
Mr. Weitz has created what for any regular theatre-goer is the ultimate good time: A play about a play that is not supposed to be a play and about actors acting as if they are not actors even though most know the others really are actors.
Rating: 4 E’s