Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2017’

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A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine

A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine. Palo Alto Players, Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA.

Palo Alto Players brushed the dust off Dick Vosburgh and Frank Lazarus’ retrospective two-act as part of the company’s homage to the creative collaboration between Hollywood and Broadway. While there were some bright moments in both acts, no amount of energy on behalf of the spunky actors, director Patrick Klein, musical direction by Katie Coleman or choreography by Lee Ann Payne could breathe life into this piece.

The original 1981 Broadway production won two Tony’s , for Featured Actress and Choreography and ACT 1 does pick up the energy levels when the troupe taps to Payne’s choreography on the  music of Leo Robin, Richard A. Whiting, and W. Franke Harling (“Beyond the Blue Horizon”), “Famous Feet” and “Doin the Production Code” (Vosburgh and Lazarus).  The eight person troupe, all dressed as ushers at old Hollywood’s landmark  Grauman’s  Chinese Theatre,  work their way amicably through the dated material which includes an homage to composer Richard Whiting (“Ain’t We Got Fun”, “Too Marvelous for Words”, “On The Good Ship Lollipop”). Michael  Saenz is wonderful throughout this act.

Andrew Ceglio, Patty Reinhart and Mohamed Ismail are the Marx Brothers.

Andrew Ceglio, Patty Reinhart and Mohamed Ismail are the Marx Brothers.

The second act, A Night in the Ukraine, a Marx Brothers farce loosely based on Chekhov’s The Bear, fared better.  Sara Cook shines as the annoyed and harried Mrs. Pavlenko, a rich widow in the style of the great Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont. Andrew Kracht and Jessica Ellithorpe play the starstruck lovers with naiveté.  Mohamed Ismail plays the Chico role well and Patty Reinhart is charming in the Harpo role. The act belongs to Andrew Ceglio as Serge B. Samovar, whose physical comedy and sarcastic deliveries mimic the great Groucho Marx.

Andrew Ceglio (Samovar) and Sarah Cook as Mrs. Pavlenko. Photo credit by Joyce Goldschmid.

Andrew Ceglio (Samovar) and Sarah Cook as Mrs. Pavlenko. Photo credit by Joyce Goldschmid.

The plot is silly of course and the troupe tries its best at madcap slapstick comedy and the Marx Brother’s unique brand of zany interactions. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but hard to achieve, especially when attempting to re-create magic in a bottle.

Performances run through February 5th, 2017. www.paplayers.org   650.329.0891