By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Anton in Show Business, many critics believe, comes closest of any of Martin's work to solving the mystery.The play provides ample evidence that "Jane Martin" is indeed Jon Jory, the now-retired artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Over the years, it's always been Jory who directed debuts of Martin's plays, accepted kudos for her or spoke on her behalf. ("I'm not going to talk about that," Jory invariably answers when asked if he and Martin are one and the same.)
Anton seems to reflect, with screamingly funny insights, Jory's lifetime of experience in and around the business of show (his father was actor Victor Jory, best known as Tara's evil overseer in Gone With the Wind). Who better than an esteemed regional theater professional to skewer the egotistical ravings of half-wit actors and actresses and to puncture the ridiculous air of self-importance exuded by overeducated directors attempting to inject some "street doo-wop" into classics? Anton in Show Business reads like it might have been written in one long, manic purge, perhaps after watching the hundredth hissy fit thrown by some numbskull thesp who'd rather be starring in a remake of Three's Companythan rehearsing Three Sisters. The play, while full of comic rage, is especially accurate in capturing the way women talk to and work with each other, the undercurrents of competition women often feel regarding beauty and sex appeal. Does Jory co-write his plays with wife Marcia Dixcy? They'll never tell.
Whoever he or she is, Jane Martin gets it all down in Anton, from the in-jokes about ditzy sitcom stars to the speeches about devotion to craft that the characters express in some of the more poignant moments at the end of the play. Tricky work, putting on a play in which professional actors have to be both dumb and smart, portraying the very stereotypes they may have studied for years not to emulate. The seven players (plus two dancers) in Second Thought's young company--made up of Baylor University drama grads--make an impressive debut. They have spot-on comic timing as they zip through their 15 roles. Director Tom Parr IV keeps the pace brisk, almost to a fault. Slowing down the breakneck speed would relax the hectic pacing of the first act. The second act seems laggy by comparison.
One actress, Tolman, is a real standout. Everything she does as the mordant Casey is so funny, so interesting, it's hard to watch anyone else. She's the only actress in the cast one can imagine might actually make a successful transition to the real Chekhov someday.
"Satire is what closes on Saturday night," wrote the Roman poet and playwright Juvenal. He meant it was a tough sell to theatergoers. Second Thought's season premiere actually closes on Sunday, so catch it quick. After all, it takes healthy sales to help theater out of its merde-filled morass and to keep exciting new troupes afloat. It would be a shame to see this bunch go tiddledy-bye.