Long ‘Nights’ for noirish comedy at Hollywood Fringe
Because the Three Clubs lends the perfect intimate speakeasy atmosphere for a show like Nights at the Algonquin Round Table, it would have been fairly safe to assume that such a show would fit well, at least in style and cast. Unfortunately, there is a lot that didn’t make it through the double doors.
That said, it should be prefaced that the night of this review was of a preview night.
Even with a relatively small cast on the whole—eight total, with Piano Man—the show has a crowded feel. With loosely defined characterizations of famous (and infamous) critics, columnists and writers Dorothy Parker (Roz Stanley), Robert Benchley (Nicholas Daly Clark), Alexander Woollcott (Steve Brock), George S. Kaufman (Chris Gooch), and Franklin Pierce Adams (Craig Win), Nights crams so much fast-paced dialogue, pun, and double entendre in that it doesn’t leave enough room to breathe much less allow a proper giggle where it can find it.
The show opens with green, mid-west writer Jack (Christopher Tedrow,) a street smart ingenue Sally (Erin Jo Harris), and their meet-cute. The two talk through his fan glaze while they wait on the five notables that he wishes to impress enough in banter and wit to be invited into their circle. In that respect their wait, as well as ours, is long.
Once the Round Table celebrities arrive, the pace yo-yos with too fast delivered lines, slow moments, and dropped lines. A card game designed to create tension drags. Historical references, famous quotes, and other nuances of the 1920’s are lost, which may be especially true for a contemporary audience unaware of the power a talented columnist once had over their audience during a morning coffee and cigarette.
A strong characterization by Erin Jo Harris, a lively rendition of Black Bottom and some fun costumes by Christine Vlasak were the high points. Dropped lines are always a low point, especially when you can cut the overall atmospheric discomfort with a knife.
When it comes to formulas, audiences will go along on an old, paved road as long someone has strong hands on the wheel. But a curve at the end was handled well enough that this writer did not see it coming around the dusty bend.
Seeing that this is a piece fueled by a passion for writing and writers, this is the very kind of show that could inspire a contemporary audience to want to know who these writers were, what made them tick and how they affected generations.
I still hope it does so.
|Writer Jack (Christopher Tedrow) and Sally (Erin Jo Harris) enjoying her industry night off in Nights at the Algonquin Round Table at Three Clubs, Hollywood, June 1, 2017.|