Loony Love Letter

Left, right, independent (or Ron Paul die-hard) — admit it, the line’s a laugh:

"Theater is a lifeline to our humanity. Without it, we’d all be Republicans."

Ken Ludwig might’ve loaned it to Barack Obama had he not already tucked it into "Moon Over Buffalo," the playwright’s otherwise nonpartisan farce whose agenda, above all political considerations, is comedy (frequently synonymous with politics) linked to a deep affection for theater’s eccentric, endearing gypsies.

"People who love theater will absolutely love this play," says Sarah O’Connell, director of the frenetic free-for-all that opens a three-weekend, season-opening run tonight at Las Vegas Little Theatre. "It’s about the heart and soul of people who put themselves through what they go through just to make theater happen. And in a place like Vegas, you can certainly understand the struggle."

Amen, sister.

"It’s a very aerobic experience for the actors," O’Connell says about the witty workout, chockablock with mistaken identities and misunderstandings, actors racing around a set made for slamming-door farce, including four doors and a flight of stairs for characters to run in, out, up and down, plus a closet (in which to hide a hogtied character).

"There are 86 different scenes where somebody goes in or out, that’s how fast it moves. There are sword fights and wrestling and rolling on the floor and Shakespeare passages, everything but the kitchen sink."

Ludwig’s loony love letter to theater, which famously returned Carol Burnett to the Broadway stage after a 30-year absence in 1995, is set in 1953 at a repertory theater in Buffalo ("Scranton without the charm"), where acting couple George and Charlotte Hay — competent thespians but not quite level with the Lunts — toil on "Private Lives" and "Cyrano de Bergerac." Having found only marginal success in Hollywood, they’re still admiring of each other’s onstage abilities.

(He to she: "You’re an actress, it’s in your veins. If you were caught in the spotlight of a coming train, you’d break into a time-step." She to he: "When you do it like that, at center stage, I wet myself. I can’t help it.")

Yet jealousy and regret remain, as in George’s resentment when the lead of legendary director Frank Capra’s "The Twilight of the Scarlet Pimpernel" goes to Ronald Colman ("They’re filming at this very moment, and Ronald Colman is wearing my tights").

"I liken them to Harvey Korman and Tim Conway, wonderful people who never quite got the big step up," says John Ivanoff, who plays George. "But they were great at what they were doing."

On that Conway/Korman wavelength, Barbara King notes that as Charlotte, "I can’t do Carol Burnett, obviously. But I like the grande dame aspect of Charlotte. And when I was younger, I did do ‘Private Lives.’ Because I’m British, it’s easy for me to do that high-falutin’ accent."

Over one day, sitcom/slapstick situations abound. Charlotte discovers George has impregnated Eileen, the troupe’s ingenue. Their daughter, Roz, is engaged to befuddled TV weathercaster Howard but returns home and fights her feelings for Paul, her ex-fiance and the company’s stage manager. Charlotte is ardently courted by smitten lawyer Richard, and everyone endures Ethel, Charlotte’s nearly deaf and completely batty mom. But most spectacularly, a call comes from Capra saying that Colman was injured on set, and Capra’s flying in to see that day’s matinee to possibly replace Colman with George — who is by now plastered after weathering Charlotte’s wrath — and giving Charlotte the role once belonging to Greer Garson, kicking off backstage chaos.

At one point, Charlotte even mistakes her daughter’s doofus fiance for Capra.

"When I first read the play, I was very confused," says Ivanoff, whose character portrays characters in "Cyrano" and "Private Lives," which he rehearses in the first act and performs — albeit strangely, and in a stupor — in the second act, as the actors get conflicting information about which play they’re actually staging.

"I felt like ‘Sybil’ at some points, but when I first heard it at a read-through, it became really funny," Ivanoff says. The confusion, O’Connell adds, is central to the silliness. "It’s a play within a play within a rehearsal within a play," she says. "Take that, Shakespeare."

For Ivanoff, it’s critical not to go around the bend in an over-the-top play. "The difficulty with farce is not trying to go for the laugh, because it’s really built into what you do, you don’t have to stretch if you do it correctly," he says. "The material gives you plenty to work with."

His acting partner, playing his acting partner, agrees. "There’s a fine line between being large and mugging," King says. "You have to be careful. But you can also just let it rip."

No matter how mad the madness, what remains is an homage to those who find the glory in the greasepaint.

"This play poses the question, ‘Is theater really dead?’ " O’Connell says. "The answer this play gives — and as far as LVLT and the people in this town are concerned — is no."

Amen, sister.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

Entertainment Videos
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Home Front Page Footer Listing