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Laugh-a-Minute in Rhinebeck

Theater Review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Jan 12th, 2019

Molly Gilman in center, Lisa Lynds to her right

Rehearsing for Oscar by Roselee Blooston at The Center for Performing Arts offers a comic play about acting that delivers on every level—laughs, emotional and intellectual wit, and fabulous acting. While this a revival of a 1994 play, the play remains relevant, wise, and absurdly delicious. Emily DePew directs with keen attention to demeanor, voice dynamics, and physical gesture, while maintaining a level of exciting improvisation by talented actors, provides a memorable evening. I left laughing so hard that I was no longer aware of the nighttime temperature.

Young Molly Gilman as the anti-hero heroine would-be actress in her debut performance at the Center runs the gamut from frumpily depressed, angrily eloquent, and mischievously funny in a series of monologues that contrast with humiliating successes by an amusing anthology in the experience of other actresses. Center veteran Lisa Lynds plays four roles, the most amusing and hilarious being Dame Enid. I hereby nominate Lisa Lynds for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and I want to be in the audience when she accepts as the whole country celebrates her. This production is regional theater at its barn-burning best.

Alina Gonzalez as the stripper Rise’n Shine supplies sassy contrast to Rhonda Joseph as the senile actress in the Actor’s Nursing home where in her dotage she imagines that she is Shakespeare’s Juliet character, and then descends in confusion to deliver a babble mish-mash of lines from several Shakespearean plays. Gonzalez delivers outrageous spunk to Joseph’s delusional pathos. Deborah Coconis as Bombshell enacts a marvelous cartoon caricature of the stunt artist, while Wendy Urban-Mead circulates with near invisible finesse in four different roles. Melissa Mathews as Glinda and Victoria Howland as Chrissy reliably round out this high-skipping cast.

Rehearsing for Oscar is a meta-play, a play about theater itself, specifically the follies, dangers, and angst about working in a big-time business at the lower end of aspiration and frustration. While the play fronts many feminist sallies, it manages to satirize feminist extremes. Dialogue brims with fast-paced wit and unexpected humor from various angles. Oscars are a false idol—real theater happens in your own backyard when there is an excellent script and talented actors.

You don’t have to flee south for a vacation when you can renew your batteries nearby at the current production at the Center. But there is some bad news in this review: there are only three scheduled performances and as I write there remain only two more. Kudos to Lou Trapani for producing this little gem. For more information go to thecenterforperfomingarts or call  (845) 876-3080.