“It’s Only a Play” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – January 28, 2018


Mainstage, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

There’s abundant raucous laughter and madcap confusion in “It’s Only a Play” at Phoenix Theatre.  The delightfully daffy production is due to Terrance McNally’s hysterical script and a superlative local cast of comic farceurs.  The zany charade affectionately slaps the machinations of producing a Broadway comedy.  Impossibly egocentric performers, a struggling playwright, and a no-clue producer cavort as they mock and laugh at a play’s creation.  There’s even an errant theater critic who gets bombarded by the insiders that make him feel unappreciated and misunderstood.

The superlative cast runs with every bit of amusing mayhem. A steady stream of laughter is launched as the play, “The Golden Egg,” takes shape and opens on Broadway.  “It’s Only a Play” has extra insider laughs for those involved in theater.

The play was a comic zinger on Broadway and this first local production equals the original because of fabulous comic details in Matthew Wiener’s expert staging.  Wiener’s stalwart staging couldn’t be more amusing and it is coupled with an attractive set and colorful costumes that laughably tell audiences about character nuances.  The opening night audience never stopped laughing and even this hardened critic experienced myriad laughs.  Since I had seen the play before, there was nothing new in the script except several well placed local references which added delight for those who know Valley theater.

There nothing but perfect comic performances in the seven person ensemble.  Tony Latham’s wild facial expressions and expert timing dazzles as he essays a hotel bellhop who escorts the cast, crew, and hangers-on to the opening night party held in the producer’s apartment.  As he struggles with the motley collection of coats, Latham starts the play with winning malarkey.  Another early party arrival, is actor James Wicker played with a flourishing comic dash by stalwart local star Rusty Ferracane.  D. Scott Withers has a field day with theater critic Ira Drew and Pasha Yamotahari basks in understatement as the oblivious playwright.

Toby Yatso, another great local performer plays director Frank Finger with just the right amount of snotty arrogance.  Debra K. Stevens is marvelously droll as the play’s star, an actress of limited ability who makes stupidity hilarious.  Finally, Ashley Stults keeps comedy gibberish flowing as the know-nothing producer.

“It’s Only a Play” entertains mightily because of the performers’ comic expertise in this beautifully staged production.  “It’s Only a P{lay” continues through February 11.  Order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com or call the box office at 602-254-2151.

Grade: A