A few months following my return to reviewing shows, I’m still feeling the excitement and satisfaction of gathering with my fellow humans at live performances. The glowing sensation continues to linger and I hope that it doesn’t dissipate for a while longer, considering what we all had to do without during the past 15 months or so because of the pandemic. Such was my state of mind when I attended “Anton in Show Business” Friday at the downtown Indy Outback Stage at The District Theatre, located across the alley from the venue’s rear entrance.
Directed by Callie Burk-Hartz, through her Betty Rage Productions, the play is by Jane Martin, whose real identity is unknown. A briskly-paced comedy, it follows three woman actors from New York auditions for Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” to a regional theatre in San Antonio, Texas, where artistic aspirations are in conflict with the commercial nature or “business” of theatre. All the characters, some men, are played by women. It’s an often-biting satire on such theatre idols as Stanislavski, the cult of celebrity, artistic concepts, pretentious Brits, the nature of talent, and numerous other theatre conventions and traditions. Those who have been on or worked backstage in any theatre production, amateur or professional, will recognize this behind-the-scenes glimpse.
The diverse cast, all of whom had their own special moments, included Devan Mathias as the narcissistic TV star Holley Seabe, Meg Elliott McLane as the “serious” Off-Broadway actor Casey Mulgraw, Sarah Zimmerman as the innocent and clueless Lisabeth Cartwright, Tracy Herring as Ralph/Wikewich/Joe Bob, Audrey Stonerock as Joby, and Jamillah Gonzalez and Kelsey VanVoorst in multiple roles.
Standing out for the multi-dimensional nature of their colorful performances were Mathias as self-absorbed and vacuous Holly, Zimmerman as the gutless Lisabeth, and VanVoorst, a comic actor whose outstanding work I have lauded previously.
Though all of the actors did their best to compete with the jet planes flying overhead, Mass Ave. bar hoppers, and distractive street sounds, in general, it was very difficult to hear dialogue at times. Increased vocal projection on the part of the actors would have helped and had mics been available for them, it would have been even better, but the show’s obvious shoestring budget no doubt, made that prohibitive.
Even though the two-hour show suffered from misguided direction, substandard production values, uneven acting and lack of polish, the sincerity of purpose and commitment of the actors managed to shine through. Overall, it was a valiant effort on the part of Burk-Hartz and team and though it had its shortcomings, nevertheless, the production still managed, at times, to entertain.
“Anton in Show Business” runs August 1, 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets, visit indydistricttheatre.org.