By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Ash Smith's Adolphus enters in the first act as an overeducated twit whose only interests are the study of Greek and the pursuit of his own goddess, Barbara. By the third act, however, he's become a wily and ambitious social climber, clever enough to nab the top spot at the Undershaft ammo business. Smith, it must be noted, once demanded that his name never again appear in a review by this critic, but his fine acting at Stage West trumps the request. Take your bow, Mr. X.
If Major Barbara is the prestige play of the week, then Blame It on the Movies is the popcorn feature. Tiny Richardson Theatre Centre, which has about two bags of nickels to spend on its productions, throws together 90 minutes of familiar movie-theme medleys in a show conceived and compiled by Ron Abel, Billy Barnes (who also contributed a few original transition songs) and David Galligan.
The plucky cast—Lise Alexander, Andi Allen, Sherry Etzel, Mike Fulk, Tim Georgeff, Olivia Harris, Jack Perl, Morgan Spolin, Jerome Stein, Ted Strahan, Shay Thompson—give it their all. That isn't quite enough, given that a couple of them can't sing worth a dang. Young Miss Thompson would need a GPS to find the actual melody of "Miss Celie's Blues" from The Color Purple, and two of the men appear to be mouthing the words in group numbers. Except for Andi Allen and Mike Fulk—pros who seem out of their league here—the cast goes weak-kneed on dance steps by Lauren Shaddox that amount to little more than marching around in circles and trying not to trip over each other.
Here's the thing about RTC. It's hard to be tough on them. They're a small community playhouse with a steady, loyal audience of older patrons who live in the surrounding neighborhood and like to bring grandkids to the G-rated shows. They don't try for high art here. They're happy with a level of entertainment that isn't slick or sophisticated. If they sold beer, stale nachos and frozen cheesecake, they could be the northern outpost of the Pocket Sandwich Theatre. RTC does, in fact, offer wine and bags of chips at its lobby concession, and you're welcome to slurp and munch throughout the show.
The current production would be easier to write off completely were it not for Allen, Fulk and the terrific piano playing by accompanist Georgeff. Seated alone on a loft above the stage, Georgeff performs a couple of sweet solos, including "Stardust." An evening of just him playing and singing cabaret-style might not be a bad idea.
Blame It on the Movies, meanwhile, is just a flicker on the horizon.