Stage farce is a tricky maneuver for actors, all faced with the same feat to deliver a success that results with laughter and engaging entertainment for the audience.
And before any such cast steps on stage, it's also a matter of what material they've been given to bring to life and what guidance and advice comes from the director.
This month welcomes the world premiere of "Tell Me When it Hurts," the new comedy stage farce by Lisa Scott presented by Three Cat Productions at the charming and intimate Berger Park Coach House Theater of the Chicago Park District's Berger Park along Lake Michigan on Sheridan Road in Chicago's north neighborhood of Edgewater. It is directed by Jason Smith.
The 90-minute, no intermission tale is running now until Dec. 21 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
This stage work is inspired by what the playwright describes as "the popular steampunk genre," which is defined as "a sub-genre of science fiction that involves fantastical steam-powered technology, and is often set in an alternative history of the 19th Century British Victorian era or the American Wild West."
For this trippy stage trip, the story opens with Dr. Guy Better, stripped of his hospital and rejected by his love, as the lead character for this plot. The heroine is intrepid scientist Kit Smart, who is spinning with her own struggles, as his love interest. Everything complicates further after a pair of head trauma clinic patients arrive, requiring care, as a surly police officer and an imaginary dog, top-off the tale.
The intimate 50-seat Berger Park Coach House Theater is a perfect setting. (I last saw David Cerda's parody production of "The Birds" in this great space.)
The production features dapper Alex Fthenakis as Dr. Guy Better, who offers boundless young talent to his character. He can play it straight as needed, and still quickly morph into comedy with fine timing. Bright-eyed Amy Dellagiarino uses her own talents to win her every challenge while in guise of the physically and mentally taxing persona of her kooky character, i.e. the energy ball that is Kit Smart. And she does it all while on roller-skates.
The patients are Sheila Willis as the the muddled Melissa and Don Baiocchi, who is funny and fascinating as Evan Oliver. Adithi Chandrashekar is a tad high strung as Officer Grimm, while Matt Lloyf serves as narrator and in some instances, an imaginary dog. (I'm not quite so sold on the use of Lloyf and his stage capacity for these identities.)
Pat Henderson uses his imagination for clever scenic and lighting design, including glass beakers and pill vials used in the lighting fixtures and John Buranosky offers an array of interesting props, coupled with Rob Dorn's graphic design and Jess Koster as stage manager, to complete the crew.
Scott has dreamed up an inventive theater dream peppered with humor and outrageous moments to keep audiences connected. Working with Smith in the director's chair, there are scenes that require some tightening, especially those with the Officer Grimm subplot involving her police partner. More time devoted to the romantic entanglement of the two leads would make things more interesting. The distraction that comes with having undefined Lloyf looming overhead on a ladder using his own puppet-master maestro movies, detracts. And as mentioned earlier, the aspect of having the leads bond via the symbolism of an invisible dog also didn't work so well for my taste.
But alas, I'm more of a cat person.
Tickets are $25 at (312) 970-9840 or threecatproductions.com.
Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain. Street parking (paybox until 9 p.m.) is available on Granville, side streets, and Broadway. (Handicapped and a limited parking is available. Call the box office for special arrangements.
Three Cat Productions was founded in 2007 with a mission to create connections between theater, music, audience and artists through the production of cabaret concerts, contemporary musicals and plays, the re-invention of classic work, the development of new works and new artists, and by creating educational and outreach opportunities for the Chicagoland community.