“The Actor’s Nightmare and More”

RSVP Productions

Saturday was one of those leisurely days that just kind of passes and you ask yourself, “What did I do?” and have difficulty coming up with the answer. Just what I needed. Lovely lunch at Lulu’s with my friend Gail – I don’t know what I enjoyed more – their current exhibition of monkey astronaut prints showing in the bar, the delicious Belmar Scottish ale on tap, or their impressive collection of Lulu fezes – who knew?!

Nevertheless, I managed to get my proverbial act together to make it over to the Brady Street Pharmacy/Astor Theatre (1696 N. Astor St.) to catch RSVP Productions’ performance of two Christopher Durang plays, The Actor’s Nightmare and The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From. To my surprise, I found a rock star parking spot in front of Glorioso’s (which is extremely rare on the lower east side), and had some time to chat with Uncommon Theatre’s founder and Artistic Director Mark Hooker and Terry Gavin, who both starred in their most recent production of Angels in America: Milennium Approaches.

Once again, I want to take the opportunity to rave about the space that is the Astor Theatre. Owner James Searles has lovingly converted a portion of the pharmacy into a nice little theater, complete with what I assume to be the original seats of the Astor Theater and some impressive lighting equipment. It holds maybe 50 people and lends such an intimate feel to the production, similar to the Boulevard Theatre. Granted, I would still advise getting there early, so as not to be sitting in the actors’ laps, but you get the picture.

I can also say with confidence that I enjoyed the Durang shows a LOT more than I had expected. Many of the same actors from RSVP’s previous production, Reckless, appeared in the plays, as well as some new faces. Dear Ruthie was simply MAHVELOUS (how could she NOT be?) as “Mrs. Sorken,” giving an impressive lecture on the etymology of drama-related vocabulary. And her handbag was exquisite, I might add. Mark and I both agreed that it’s ALWAYS a pleasure to see Kirk Thomsen in his boxers, although Mark was hoping for some tighty whities (well, you can’t have everything). The silver tights were definitely an added bonus. “An Actor’s Nightmare” played out a scenario about which I think every actor has had anxiety dreams. I know I have. “You’re on in five minutes” – and you are thinking, “What play are we doing, again?”. Watching the actors struggling to get through the scenes of four different plays with their terminally disoriented and confused co-actor was painfully funny, if it weren’t so true.

I especially enjoyed Cynthia L. Paplaczyk’s performance in Beckett’s Checkmate. She had some great surreal expressions that would have made the late exile proud. Her rendition of the sex maniac, “Nurse Cratchett,” in “The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From” was beyond creepy – you could almost see the saliva gathering at the corners of her mouth as she prepared to devour the super-sleuthing/sweater-sporting duo who were scouting about for “clues” to help solve their newest mystery. Hilarious. Miss Ruthie took off her wig and let her leg hair down as Mark Hagen in a FABULOUS performance as Frank Hardy. It was really funny and, well, thankfully short. It wasn’t dragged out, the jokes didn’t get stale, and we got out at a decent hour for Mark and Terry to grab some pizza and I could have a nightcap with my friends. It runs through this coming weekend, and tickets are going fast, so make a point to catch it if you can.