Review by Danny Gaisin
“Jitters; n. an irregular random movement”. Colloquially – to be nervous or act nervously. David French’s 1979 comedy is about a theatre group prepping for the premiere of a new play and how the cast’s psyches complicated by crew or set perversity screws up even the best of intentions. SIMCOE LITTLE THEATRE and director Melissa Collver have perhaps chosen this piece in order to educate their audiences about what really happens before a curtain finally goes up. As a definitive edict for thespians, the effort, like directorial instructions, requires a player to ‘Hit The Mark’. They and the play certainly do so. Photo by RoseLe Studio
The plot and act breakdowns are threefold. The opening & final scenes are on the rehearsal stage; the middle is the so-called prepping ‘Green Room’. Interactions between the players, director; playwright, and stage manager may be slightly hyperbolic, but do reflect reality. After four decades of exposure to live theatre; we naturally got to see behind the greasepaint and costumes, and I can attest to the thin-skins and inferiority complexes that even the top professionals possess. As for on-stage decorative or prop screw-ups; they are endemic!
Credit, or blame rests with the director and Collver seems to have held a very loose rein. There are some major positional blocking that coupled with poor dialogue projection made us miss many of French’s bon mots and repartee. The result is NOT a ♫ Turkey that you know will fold ♪ * but could use a little tweaking. The major characters are all supposedly experienced thespians, mentoring or criticizing the novice actors, usually by denigration. So, the former feel threatened by their counterparts, and all suffer from self-confidence, relying on old critiques for a morale boost.
Epitomizing this effect is Angela Carvalho’s Jessica who has the female lead role in both the play being staged, …and the play itself. She is a convincing powerhouse with a wide range of character portrayal. Her instances of dissatisfaction with a supplied wig instinctively ring true. Her nemesis is ‘Patrick’ the nominal male lead and Al Lee steals every scene. His accent; dramatic pauses; expressions and body language make him own the entire effort. Outstanding!
There is varying levels of role reinforcement from the supporting cast. Doug Haskett is reverend Phil who must endure the worst abuse from his counterparts, mostly because he demonstrates the greatest insecurity. Carvalho’s on-stage son is Andrew Rowe, and he does his best to portray a first-timer acting before a live audience. Amanda Vos adds tons of eye candy to the play, but she definitely needs help with vocal projection. ‘Nick’ (Mike McDonnell) is the sound & lighting maven with but brief time actually before the footlights. Too bad, his posturing, stance and facial verbalism are masterful.
The representative directorial role is played by John Dickson. Hopefully, he didn’t mirror Collver in his interpretation because he certainly fails to reflect the absolute autocracy that a director has. Strutting is more effective than prancing and every other director we’ve observed move more like Carmen’s ‘Escamillo’ than ‘Mr. Bean’. The actors; writer and even the crew all seem to tolerate rather than respect him. Laine Williams is the writer and Linda Tate is the producer; both are more than just satisfactory. Their contribution is pivotal to the whole effect.
Act III takes place the day after opening. Here the audience learns what the critics have to say about the play and the actors. Unfortunately, French has included so many of this scribe’s own opinions that I felt plagiarized! Thanks, David.
JITTERS will be at SLT until February 23rd.
* Note. Lyrics from Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business like Show Business” (609 words!)