Tragedy Tomorrow, Comedy Tonight #roc #geva39

“I finally had the luxury of sitting out front, with friends and family (I went not only with my husband, but his sister, and our friends/neighbors Eric (a Geva first-timer), and his wife Kathy), happily part of a sold-out performance. Watching the play unfolding, I was reminded of the opening number in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: “Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns; bring on the lovers, liars and clowns! Stunning surprises, cunning disguises…” This play has all of that, in 90 fast-paced minutes.

I’ll never know how much my enjoyment of the show was enhanced by the ‘cohort’ experience and having become intimately familiar with the script. But judging from the response of my companions (who were incredibly impressed by the talent, versatility, and professionalism of the cast, and that it wasn’t simply a copy of the Broadway production), and the rest of the audience, I suspect I would have loved the show even if I’d had no knowledge of it going in. There are so many wonderful moments in this production – the train scene with its rapid changing of hats, the vertiginous chase scene involving the actors lying on the floor, the silly nods to Rochester (I’m not sure everyone could hear when Aaron, as the Usherette, offers someone in the audience a garbage plate) – the list goes on. The set was beautiful and simple, and the lighting and sound really enhanced the play’s action – things I wouldn’t have given much thought to before. It also never occurred to me that these actors work without understudies. I was a bit worried after yesterday’s production note that Monica injured herself slightly, but there was no hint of that in her performance today.

It has been a true privilege to serve as a ‘cohort’ on two of Geva’s productions, and I will miss the daily e-mails from the production managers with notes on how the rehearsal or performance went, house counts, notes to the various departments about things that have broken, etc. The daily recaps even comment on the audience’s reaction – how quickly they warmed up to the show, or whether their attention held, or whether they didn’t laugh in anticipated moments. (And Frank Cavallo’s summary of the performance I attended reached the same conclusion I did: “The actors fed off a big and appreciative audience and delivered a very fresh and funny performance.”) Unlike traditional jobs, where you might get an annual review, cast and crew get nightly performance feedback, and strive daily to improve their job of helping an audience suspend belief for several hours in order to be entertained.

One of a comedy’s measures of success is a full house (with the same number in the audience after intermission as before…) and laughter. From the production e-mails I’ve seen, and the favorable anecdotal reviews I’ve received from friends, The 39 Steps has been a great success. So it turns out my friend Nanette was right when she said I’d enjoy this show. But perhaps it’s just as well that Mary Beth dissuaded me from seeing the Broadway production, so that I could see this one with no preconceptions.” – Maggie Symington

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