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Stage Life

A celebration in contemporary and classic short stories, letters, comic and dramatic pieces and reminiscences of lives lived in and around the Theater.

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The Cast of “Stage Life” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Creative Arts Lab)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

As conceived and adapted by Martin Tackel, Stage Life is too ambitious by half. While it attempts to demonstrate its title by quoting from playwrights, actors, directors, producers, teachers, critics, et al.–and all in 90 minutes–it just keeps jumping around all over the place, without finding any focus nor rhyme or reason to the sequence of the quotes. Though some of the quoted practitioners are familiar–such as Sanford Meisner, David Belasco, Geraldine Page, Jose Quintero, and Konstantin Stanislavski–many are not.

The piece, if that’s what it is (it’s certainly not a play), begins when a voice says, “Places everybody,” before everybody takes turns entering and saying brief quotes. It then launches into the first of 15 scenes listed in the program, which is also the first of several different sessions of Meisner’s class, with the great, overbearing teacher dispensing advice, such as, “You know it’s all right to be wrong, but it’s not all right not to try.”

Pretty quickly, we observe a playwright at a desk, saying she can’t find her pencil, before adding, “Now what the hell am I going to write about?” which seems like a question Mr. Tackel asked himself—or do I mean, should have asked himself–when he set out to write Stage Life. Cue Tennessee Williams, observing, “My tragedies are funnier than my comedies.”

Stuart Zagnit and Brandon Schraml in a scene from “Stage Life” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Creative Arts Lab)

Then a letter by Mrs. John Drew–Lionel Barrymore’s grandmother–is recited, firing her grandson from a play. Next producer Belasco confronts a playwright, whose play he’s going to put in “a portion of the show tonight,” by shredding the script and turning it into ticker tape. Much later, there is an interesting interpretation of Macbeth, as adapted from a story by James Thurber, The Macbeth Murder Mystery. And on and on and on, for what seems like an interminable hour and a half.

Only two of the six cast members distinguish themselves: Stuart Zagnit, who plays Meisner, Belasco, and “others,” and Brandon Schraml, who plays Stanislavski, and “others.” I list the other cast members here for the record: Brittney Lee Hamilton, Peter Husovsky, Judy McLane, MarTina Vidmar. The mish-mash has been directed by Gwen Arment and designed by Andrew Diaz (credited with scenery), Lui Konno (costumes), Zach Pizza (lighting), and Brian Hurley (music/sound).

Stage Life (through June 9, 2018)

Creative Arts Lab

The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 visit http://www.Telecharge.com

Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission

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David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (89 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

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