Thursday, January 12, 2012

REVIEW: Asolo Rep’s ‘Once in a Lifetime’ full of laughs

A satire of the film industry when it premiered in 1930, “Once in a Lifetime” works as a winking, rather than biting, comedy in the successful new staging by Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Sure, the first collaboration by famed playwright team George Kaufman and Moss Hart has several references so buried in dust that only film buffs will chuckle at them in recognition.

But the play’s zany appeal remains largely vibrant throughout regardless of its age and at times flimsy premise.

“Once in a Lifetime” takes the audience across the country via Pullman car with three vaudevillians who land in Hollywood to teach silent film actors how to speak on camera in the new age of “talkies.”

Jerry Hyland (Andrew Carter) thinks he’s the ringleader but it’s May Daniels (Hillary Clemens) who runs the show. George Lewis (Jason Bradley) is the rube who does what he’s told, at least for the most part.

Carter is a reliable straight man while Daniels gets the most zingers and delivers each with winning aplomb. Bradley deftly plays the egoless idiot who becomes the studio golden child.

David Breitbarth swings for the fences and touches all the bases as unhinged movie mogul Herman Glogauer.

A mere 19 actors play more than 70 roles, with the professionals and Asolo Conservatory students working together seamless through the numerous scenes.

Credit director Mark Rucker for keeping the comedic timing mostly spot-on and the action moving swiftly without ever getting lost in all those exits and entrances.

The look of the play also merits praise.

Set Designer Erik Flatmo and Costume Designer Alex Jaeger make each scene an eye-catching experience, even if it’s just the three leads moping around a hotel room in New York.

And then there are the more subtle details.

Like the way the actors bounce while riding on the train and the desert scenery is projected behind them as an homage to old movies.

Another treat is the actual film, supposedly shot within the story, that’s projected in front of the stage.

Yeah, “Once in a Lifetime” is screwball silliness.

But done remarkably, laugh-out-loud well.

—PUBLICITY PHOTO From left, Andrew Carter (Jerry Hyland), Jason Bradley (George Lewis) and Hillary Clemens (May Daniels).

What: “Once in a Lifetime”
When: Playing through Feb. 29
Where: Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Tickets: $27-$71
Information: 941-351-8000 or

No comments: