Review: ‘Anton in Show Business’ at Silver Spring Stage

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Anton in Show Business by Jane Martin opened last night at Silver Spring Stage. The show is produced by Jim Robertson and directed by Erin Bone Steele.

The plot is a strange one that satirizes the audition and rehearsal process of a production of Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters scheduled to open in San Antonio, Texas. Two actresses, Lisabette (Shannon McCarthy), with her Texas drawl, and Casey (Brianna Goode), the Off-Off Broadway more mature actress, audition for the roles of Masha and Olga, respectively. A pompous director (Lenora Spahn) makes them jump through ridiculous hoops for the role. Holly (Stephanie Dorius) the famous television star, uses her power to cast the two in the roles of Irina and Olga.

The cast of ‘Anton in Show Business.’ Photo by Harvey Levine.

The play gets stranger and stranger and funnier and funnier as it moves from New York City to San Antonio. Add a series of new directors, unsavory producers and a male co-star and Anton in Show Business becomes a biting satire of modern regional theater. Adding to the mayhem, the group of thespians is constantly breaking the fourth wall with conversations with an antagonistic “audience” member, Joby (Rita Sengupta).

The three leading ladies, McCarthy, Goode,[ and Dorius head this talented cast. McCarthy’s Lisabette never loses her drawl or her charm. Her energy helps sustain the momentum of the show, and she is both wise and naïve at the same time.

Goode’s Casey is the most sympathetic of the trio. She is facing the end of her not very illustrious career as an actress, and Goode brings her fears and sadness to the forefront without being maudlin. Dorius hits the mark as the beautiful, self-centered successful television star trying to have a film career take off by doing a classical drama. The three women are at their best in the scenes they share, and they shine at their pajama party.

In multiple roles, and noting all the male roles are played by females, there are some very talented individuals. Spahn plays not only a pompous English director but a very funny Polish director and finally, a smarmy Texan, but does these cross-gender. She does it all seamlessly.

Stephanie Pounds is a hoot as the stereotyped black-female director and then later as the gay costume designer. She is even funny changing scenery.  Sengupta is hilarious as the annoying audience member. She is joined by Leigh K. Rawls (Kate/Ben), Erica Smith (T-Anne/Don Blount) both of whom carry off their parts with much humor.

Erin Bone Steele is responsible for guiding all this chaotic fun and does a fine job as the director of this show. The lighting is designed by Bill Strein and his does well illuminating the audience as well as the sparse set. The set is a minimalist one. A couple of platforms, a frame of a doorway on wheels and chairs. This is in keeping with a audition and rehearsal hall where the action primarily takes place. Credit goes to Linda Bartash for keeping the set so simple but practical. The sound by Nick Sampson adds a great deal to the action and humor, and I really enjoyed the flight attendant’s microphone voice which added to the cartoonish airplane flight. Melanie Lawrence does a excellent job as Costume Designer with the period rehearsal costumes for Three Sisters and the cross ones for the gender switches.

The cast of ‘Anton in Show Business.’ Photo by Harvey Levine.

If you are looking for an offbeat comedy, you don’t have to be a theater buff to enjoy Anton in Show Business. You don’t even have to like Chekov, but ‘rush in’ to see this very uproarious production.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with an intermission.

Anton in Show Business plays weekends through March 18, 2017, at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD, in the Woodmoor Shopping Center. For tickets,  call the box office at (301) 593-6036, or purchase them online.

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