Unfortunately, community theatre groups are all too often the butt of jokes. They are depicted as woulda-coulda-shoulda also-rans who never get past church basements and community all-purpose rooms. Mediocre talents with inflated egos are common portraits.
But playwright Tom Griffin’s “Amateurs,” currently running at 103-15 Union Turnpike at the Grace Lutheran Church, turns the stereotype on its ear. The Parkside Players and Director Nick Radu help shatter the negative myths.
The first act presents the usual pigeon-holed performances. There’s some self- absorbed, over-the-hill males, skimpily-clad females and some downright crazy characters. It isn’t till the second act that the angst, poignant realities and charm of local performers become clear.
Let’s start with long suffering Dorothy. She is hosting the after-party for the D-list leftovers from her local troupe’s show about singing undertakers. Dorothy is portrayed by Malini Singh McDonald, who has spent most of her recent history behind the scenes. It’s a welcome change to see her in front of the footlights. Her character is tormented by an excruciating event in her past. Almost from the start, she is a boiling pot just waiting to explode. Her onstage husband Charlie (Mike Miller) has dealt with their mutual tragedy by escaping into delusion. He is obsessed with chairs and loudly proclaims an endless barrage of non sequitors. Both he and his wife are in terrible emotional pain.
Nathan Monroe (Rich Weyhausen) is a frustrated ventriloquist who is also coping with personal loss. Egotistical leading man Wayne Seabury (Johnny Culver) ultimately demonstrates insecurities that go way beyond the spotlight. Wisecracking, worldly, fearlessly flirtatious Jennifer Collins (Jenna Kantor) is returning to Hollywood for another professional call back. But we are never quite sure if she will win that role. How will another disappointment affect her?
Irene Chilmark (Laura S. Packer) tolerates her vulgar, abrasive husband Ernie (Paul Robilotto) to the point of humiliation. Shapely Mona Williams (Crystalla Gonzalez) has her head in the clouds and her libido in some unlikely places.
Finally, there’s the reviled theatre critic Paul Cortland (Peter Sullivan) whose brutal review is met by poetic justice at the end of the first act.
So, which view of community theatre do you prefer? The hacks who should stay with their day jobs or creative and caring, but often wounded, human beings whose true triumphs never make the media?
Call for tix at (718)497-4922, then respond to the blog.