OFFBEAT: First Folio Theatre's 'Rough Crossing' not so funny

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-02-18T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: First Folio Theatre's 'Rough Crossing' not so funnyBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

It's not a secret that doing comedy isn't an easy feat.

And it's always the best kind of funny when it seems to come naturally, rather than forced.

First Folio Theatre at elegant Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. and Rt. 83 in Oak Brook, Ill. is offering a production of Tom Stoppard's musically-laced farce "Rough Crossing" as a way to chase away the winter blues.

The run started Jan. 29 and continues through March 2 directed by Jeff Award nominee and First Folio Theatre favorite face Alison C. Vesely.

"Rough Crossing" is billed as "a musical romp on the high seas" with Jeff Award winner Christopher Kriz "composing three new jazz songs to Stoppard's original lyrics."

At this point of my review, it's time for my confession that I'm not an easy sell for humor, so my laughs don't come easily.

According to the press release description for this show: "The Jazz Age musical is set in the early '30s aboard the S.S. Italian Castle on its way to New York, while two playwrights struggle to finish their latest musical hit as they maneuver around a jealous composer, the screen star he loves, and her lothario co-star. Aided by the most inept steward ever to tread the deck of a cruise ship, the trio must save both their show and their stars from disaster."

I eagerly anticipated seeing this stage story looking forward to two hours of silly fun. However, I didn't find much about any of it all so funny. The cast works hard to slip into the skins of their silly characters, but none of it led to much of a result from my perspective. Many of the same gags become so repetitious, the premise poking fun at the situation quickly runs thin.

Written by Tony and Academy Award winner Stoppard, I'm told "Rough Crossing" is based on "Play at the Castle" by Ferenc Molnár.

The production features First Folio Theatre Artistic Associates Kevin McKillip, René Ruelas, Christian Gray and David Rice. They share the stage with First Folio favorites Gail Rastorfer and Jeff-Award winner Alex Weisman.

I was impressed with the scenic design recreation of a ship's onboard landscape by Angela Weber Miller and the sound design by Christopher Kriz.

With plenty of free parking available on the grounds of the estate, tickets are $30 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $26), and $37 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $32). Three and four-show subscriptions are available. Season subscriptions and individual tickets at the box office at (630) 986-8067 or online at

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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