Las Vegas Little Theater opens their 36th season with the comedy "Amateurs" by Tom Griffin. The play takes place at the house of Charlie (portrayed by David Elliott) and Dorothy (portrayed by Lee Meyers) where they are busy hosting an after party for the cast of a community theater show.
There is a more high-profile party going on across town, but an interesting collection of people gathers into Dorothy's living room. The guest list includes Nathan (David Hennigar), a recently divorced high school teacher who happens to be a bad ventriloquist, Wayne (Anthony Avery), an inadequate actor who is almost as bad at love and Jennifer (Faith Radford), who has the best shot at Hollywood stardom compared to her fellow actors. Also there are Ernie (Robert Gilmer), one of the actors in the troupe filled with trite jokes and spite, Irene (Heather Silvio), his wife who is soon to run out of patience and Mona (Abby Dandy), who was in love with Wayne, but has since moved on to someone else. Finishing it all up is Paul (Paul Cieslewicz), a well-known drama critic and friend of Dorothy's who despises community theater (and probably shouldn't be reviewing it). The party is ultimately the setting in which dreams, loves, failures and successes are explored with alleged bittersweet humor. I say 'alleged' because, even though this was listed as a comedy, I did not laugh even once.
The biggest problem I had was the script itself. This comes as a bit of a surprise to me because I did enjoy Mr. Griffin's touching comedy "The Boys Next Door" several years back. I had no sympathy for any of the characters. There was no one an audience member could cheer on.
Furthermore, it was predictable, cheap humor that was unimaginative. Ultimately, I just didn't see a point to the play. There was a cast party, people were uncomfortable about the guests that arrived, a hated theater critic almost dies of a heart attack, everyone is passively thankful about the critic being okay, people continued to be uncomfortable with each other, then Dorothy has a breakdown because she can no longer deal with her husband's inability to get past their child's death. That's basically what I got out of this script. With the thousands of plays available to community theaters, it is a mystery to me as to why this particular show was chosen to open the 36th season of a very successful community theater.
I feel that each of the actors had moments where they had a chance to shine. The highlights included Jennifer's brief 'love affair' in Act Two with the ventriloquist dummy and Dorothy's monologue defending her husband's actions towards the end of the show. Other than that, I saw a lot of individuals onstage, politely taking their turns reciting their lines and not really reacting to what was going on around them. I desperately wanted to experience chemistry and relationships onstage, but unfortunately, none of this occurred.
A highlight of the production is the set design by Ron Lindblom. He created a space that was functional, pleasant and inviting for the audience. I also feel that the lighting design by Ginny Adams was strong.
There is no question that I have experienced plenty of strong efforts by Las Vegas Little Theater in the past, and I am sure to see many more in the future. "Amateurs" just didn't do it for me this time. This show is for mature audiences due to the excessive language that appears in Act Two.
"Amateurs" runs through Sept. 29 at Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive in Las Vegas. For tickets or information, call 702-362-7996 or visit www.lvlt.org.