‘Woody Allen, Woody Allen’ at The Montgomery Playhouse

FOUR STARS
I am a huge Woody Allen fan and not just for his films. I’m a fan of his early plays and it was a treat to watch two talented casts having a blast yesterday performing two of his plays: Central Park West and Honeymoon Motel in The Montgomery Playhouse’s Woody Allen, Woody Allen, as they performed in the intimate Gaithersburg Arts Barn.

This is a tough review to write because I have to be careful not to give away the one liners, the jokes, the outrageous and, at times, jaw-dropping, in-your-face, snarky, back-stabbing and utterly hysterical verbal exchanges in this well-performed two hours of pleasure. It’s a feast for Woody fans like me. And it reminded me that this is a multi-talented guy!

Top: John Reece, Joe Mariano. Bottom: Lisa Holland, Gemma Davimes, and Meredith Fogle in 'Central Park West.' Photo by David Jones.

Top: John Reece, Joe Mariano. Bottom: Lisa Holland, Gemma Davimes, and Meredith Fogle in ‘Central Park West.’ Photo by David Jones.

In Central Park West, a prickly shrink finds out that her husband is dumping her for another woman. She immediately believes it’s her best friend and as she gets tipsier and tipsier all hell breaks out and as we are introduced to their two meshuganah husbands-all hell breaks loose. And on the way all the dirty laundry is unveiled and everyone is put through the wringer. It’s an emotional roller coaster and there are some great performances by the talented cast, helmed by Director Bruce Hirsch and his Assistant Director Susan Click.

Joe Mariano is terrific as the slimy putz of a husband (Sam) who shtups anything that moves. Lisa Lorraine Holland is perfection as the accused friend/slut/whore Carol-the so-called best buddy. Gemma Davimes is adorable as the very spaced out and unsuspecting ‘new kid in town’, and Meredith Fogle is perfection as Phyllis the ‘analyst’ who is so filled with anger and despair that you’d like to send this shrink to a… shrink. But my favorite performance was delivered by John Reece as Howard, Carol’s ‘shocked’ husband. Reece could have made his character into a one-dimensional manic nutcase, but instead, his performance as the cuckold husband is multi-leveled and full of humor and pathos. I loved this guy and this actor! There was great chemistry among this family of actors and I loved every minute of their performances. 

Left to Right: Susan R. Paisner, Scott D'Vileskis, Kryss Lacovaro, John Allnutt, Marsha Rehns, and Mark Shullenbarger. Photo by David Jones.

Left to Right: Susan R. Paisner, Scott D’Vileskis, Kryss Lacovaro, John Allnutt, Marsha Rehns, and Mark Shullenbarger in ‘Honeymoon Motel.’ Photo by David Jones.

In Honeymoon Motel, a recently married bride and groom arrive at a seedy hotel’s Honeymoon suite to consummate their love and are joined by members of both mishpachas and their wedding party. Oy vey! More lies, more craziness, more barbs, funny one-liners, and more skeletons to come out of the closet. Spending time with the Spector and Roth families will make you want to join a convent an order some pizza.

John Allnutt  and (the charismatic Jerry Spector) and his alleged bride-the impulsive Nina Roth (Kryss Lacovaro) are a hoot as the play opens and before all hell breaks loose as the shocked visitors start filling up the room. Susan R. Paisner (The castrating Judy Spector) and Marsha Rehns (The ditzy Fay Roth) are perfectly kvetchy and domineering Jewish Mammas and mothers-in-laws and Mark Shullenberger (Sam Roth) is the perfect Jewish husband-a mensch-who doesn’t wear the pants in his family.

David Gross is hilarious as the confused and schnapps-filled Rabbi Baumel who tries to make sense of it all: “A man who loves the sound of his own voice,” and Scott D’Vileskas is the perfect ‘Mamma’s Boy’ groom who thinks he knows his bride well.. but… Ed Silverstein is funny and wise as the smart Eddie-Jerry’s best friend-the man who tries to calm everyone down and does a great job at throwing guilt Allnut’s way in the opening scene. Dan Silverman is outrageous as Jerry shrink (Dr. Brill), and Jena Stone (Sal Buonacotti) delivers with his Pizza guy perfomance.

Frankly, I liked Central Park West better. The laughs came easier and the audience, first shocked at some of the adult humor, [My favorites: (I am paraphrasing.. “You All-American whore…they should put your diaphragm in the Smithsonian,” and, “I cheated with Howard’s collaborator… He wanted to check the shock absorbers.”] finally relaxed and then laughed consistently though the piece. With Honeymoon Motel there were too many characters trying to outdo each other’s funny lines. It got a little ‘humor-crowded.’

David Jones’ (who took the above wonderful pictures) effective, yet simple, set design and Set Dressers and Properties by BJ Angstadt and Kay Coupe created the proper ambiance and venue for both plays utilizing furniture pieces, a bar, flowery wallpaper, pictures of NYC and chinese sayings, a bed in-the-round, and some Egyptian sculpture, among others. Paul Shoop provided the lighting and Director Hirsch provided the crisp sound design.

Woody Allen, Woody Allen is a fun fun time time in the theatre theatre.

These are two great casts playing off each other well and having a hell of a good time-and you will too! it will bring you nachas and maybe a good Jewish divorce lawyer to the rescue.

 Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Woody Allen, Woody Allen plays through May 18, 2014 at The Montgomery Playhouse performing at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn-311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.

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