A harried stage manager (Sarah Koestner) has to deal with the actors' clashing egos and the wandering attentions of "Laura," the spaced-out chick in the light booth, as she struggles to get one run-through done before curtain time.

Were it not for a wonderfully relaxed performance by Huber, The Understudy would be a study in how to underwhelm the audience with a half-baked premise. But in his charming, cheeky asides to the audience, Huber draws us over to his character's point of view. Acting is a tough game, and sometimes the guys who look good yelling "Get in the truck!" in a movie about a freak tornado get the bucks, while the ones who can bring a Kafka play to life get the shaft. That's what the understudy learns. That's Rebeck's message, as if this were a major revelation to anyone.

Koestner is overly shrill as the stage manager, who once was involved romantically with the unknown actor. The way she shrieks and stomps around, it's easy to understand why he dumped her before the wedding. She's a harpy in a headset.

Maurice Verrett Johnson, Akron Watson, Walter Lee and Calvin S. Roberts blend their voices in Smokey Joe's Cafe at WaterTower Theatre.
Mark Oristano
Maurice Verrett Johnson, Akron Watson, Walter Lee and Calvin S. Roberts blend their voices in Smokey Joe's Cafe at WaterTower Theatre.

Details

Smokey Joe's Cafe

Continues through August 12 at WaterTower Theatre, Addison. Call 972-450-6232.

The Understudy

Continues through August 5 at Amphibian Theatre, Fort Worth. Call 817-923-3012.

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And yes, Rebeck does write faux Kafka dialogue for the play-within-the play sequences. It's as bad as you think it might be. A hit play by Kafka. Real funny, Rebeck, real funny.

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