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How effective can a stage comedy be when performed without an audience? Having now seen two such webcasts, both of them taped in empty theaters, I still don’t know for sure.
San Francisco Playhouse, a company new to me, is currently testing the efficaciousness of online comedy with Yasmina Reza’s “Art.” Like Ms. Reza’s “God of Carnage,” it’s a serious small-cast comedy (three characters) of bad middle-class manners that hit big on Broadway, where it opened in 1998 and ran for 600 performances. Directed by Bill English, the company’s artistic director, on a simple but elegant set of his own design, it tells the tale of Serge (Johnny Moreno), an art snob who spends $200,000 on a minimalist painting that his old friend Marc (Jomar Tagatac) curtly dismisses as “a piece of white shit.”…
While this production is a trifle rough around the edges, the cast is well chosen and Mr. English’s staging serves the play equally well. Not so the absence of an audience, which is a problem, if never a serious one….
Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year” was an even bigger hit than “Art”: It opened on Broadway in 1975, ran for 1,453 performances, then was turned into a popular movie. It is now a regional-theater staple, and North Coast Repertory Theatre, a very fine troupe whose headquarters is a suburban shopping center not far from San Diego, is presenting it as a fully-staged webcast taped on its main stage.
Directed by David Ellenstein, the company’s artistic director, “Same Time, Next Year” is a lightweight romcom about George and Doris (Bruce Turk and Katie MacNichol), who are married—but not to one another—and who meet once a year for an adulterous tryst without informing their spouses….
“Same Time, Next Year” has long since become a period piece. Even its best laugh lines smack of Neil Simon’s old-fashioned one-two-get-ready-for-the-joke style: “I have a friend who says that life is saying ‘yes.’ The most I’ve ever been able to manage is ‘maybe.’” Such jokes land much harder when there are people present to laugh at them….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for Art: