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Off Broadway

He Says: TACT’s Three Wise Guys

He Says: TACT’s Three Wise Guys

This is TACT’s swan song as a producing theatrical company, and although I must admit I have never seen any of their productions, it is always a sad day when the people who love the world of theatre find they have to close up shop. Hopefully, they will move forward onto bigger and better things.  Because their love of theatre and entertainment is obvious and in full view in their most recent production of Three Wise Guys, a new play by Scott Alan Evans and Jeffrey Couchman based on the story “Dancing Dan’s Christmas” and “The Three Wise Guys” by Damon Runyon. It’s just too bad that ultimately the material in their final show is so light-weight and screwball silly, that it will be forgotten as fast as it takes to toss the Playbill in the recycling bin.  This snicker-worthy and sweetish play doesn’t feel very vital nor is it a high level, high-octane comedy, but it is done with love and a good spirited need to entertain by all involved.  That is clear.

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Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Karl Kenzler, Joel Jones. photo credit: Marielle Solan

The cast is having a grand old time using every stereotypical accent or joke available to them as they inhabit the streets of prohibition-era New York City, Long Island, and Pennsylvania with a big slapstick style, a wide grin, and a very apparent wink to us all.  It’s pleasant and mildly entertaining fun as directed by Scott Alan Evans (adapted and directed: Noël Coward’s Long Island Sound), and although this type of comedy is not my cup of tea (or moonshine), the guys behind me were laughing their heads off in a similarly comic style to what was happening on stage. It almost felt like they were extras in an old movie, or at least cousins to the Three Wise Guys on stage.

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Joel Jones, Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Karl Kenzler, Ron McClary. photo credit: Marielle Solan

The trio of actors that make up these Three Wise Guys that get themselves into trouble, escape to a mansion in Long Island in a Santa suit, and follow a shining star to a barn in the woods in hopes to find treasure, all very biblically amusing, are played with solid relish by the talented Jeffrey C. Hawkings (Beyond Therapy) as ‘Dancing’ Dan, Karl Kenzler (Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof) as ‘Blondy’ Swanson, and Joel Jones (TACT’s You Can’t Take It With You) as ‘The Dutchman’, or you can call him “Mr. The Dutchman” if you’re a British gambling-addicted Butler working in Great Neck, NY trying hard to hold onto his job. The other two men in the small cast play a number of other parts, quick changing in the back, with a clear differential of each.  Ron McClary (Flea’s The Lightning Field) has a lot of fun as ‘Good Time’ Charlie, Myrton, and Doc Kelton, as does John Plumpis (TACT’s Widowers’ Houses) as Heine Schmitz, Jasper, and Ambersham. The two women also must be wildly throwing on and off wigs and costumes that vary wildly from sexy and fun to overwrought (David Roser) in the side wings of that small stage at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row NYC. It must be quite the comedy in its self. Victoria Mack (Off-Broadway’s A Little Journey) has some fun as the show girl and object of ‘Dancing’ Dan and ‘Good Time’ Charlie’s affection and winking eye, Muriel O’Neill, and is a bit more wobbly with the accent as ‘Blondy’ Swanson’s crush, Miss Clarabelle Cobb. Dana Smith-Croll (TACT’s The Dining Room) is delightful and ridiculous as Mrs. Elizabeth Albright, or ‘Bitsy’ if you catch her eye, but steps down a bit to play an overdone and shaky granny, Gammer O’Neill.

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Victoria Mack, John Plumpis. photo credit: Marielle Solan

Playing this story out on a surprisingly humorous set, with a pop-out charm designed with an inventive eye for theatricality by Jason Ardizzone-West (Public’s Women of a Certain Age, Illyria), lighting by M.L. Geiger (Broadway’s The Constant Wife), and sound design by Bart Fasbender (Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), the cast and crew incorporate a charming (if sometimes clumsy) use of shadow puppetry by Andy Gaukel (Basil Twist’s Symphonie Fantastique) to tell some stories that definitely didn’t need to be acted out on stage, and a good use of projections by Dan Scully (Broadway’s Rocky) to make every road trip an interesting one. Overall the piece flies by on a bit shaky but silly charisma, piling on the giddy jokes one on top of each other with sentimental affection.  This crew will at least go out with some fun and a giggle, and maybe this piece has some longevity in regional summer playhouses and touring houses up and down the beaches and towns of America. They, like the two guys sitting behind me, might lap this up with a big roaring snort and guffaw. Me? Not so much, maybe I needed a few shots of that hooch to make it a more hilarious ride.

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Ron McClary, Dana Smith-Croll, John Plumpis, Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Joel Jones, Karl Kenzler. photo credit: Marielle Solan
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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