The first show to be staged in Writers Theatre’s new studio space delivers exactly what it says on the tin: a parody mash-up of several chestnuts of 20th-century American drama. Developed in conjunction with the Second City, the new show engineers a meeting between Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, Willy Loman and George and Martha all in the same New Orleans rooming house, together with Our Town’s folksy Stage Manager. The characters’ interaction allows for smart and goofy metacommentary on their original plays (with nods to several others), while also poking fun at the very nature of theater—and theatergoers.
Sniffen is adept at capturing the writerly peccadilloes of Albee, Miller, Williams and Wilder and playing them off each other. “When you think about it,” muses Sean Fortunato’s cracker-barrel narrator, “a character like me saves a playwright a lot of work.” (Of his own style of speaking, the Stage Manager describes it as “like somebody drizzled warm butterscotch over Mark Twain.”) It’s tremendously satisfying to see gimlet-eyed and –fueled Martha (Karen Janes Woditsch) assess the overwrought sexuality of Blanche DuBois (Jennifer Engstrom, saturated with Southern discomfort), or to send supercilious George (John Hoogenaker) out for a bowling night with Stanley (Michael Perez) and the boys.
Of course, none of this would work nearly as well as it does without such an ideal cast, which also includes Marc Grapey as sad-sack Willy Loman. You can sense these actors, many of whom can often be found playing these kinds of characters straight, reveling in the opportunity to send them up. Fun and games, indeed.
Writers Theatre. Conceived by Tim Ryder and Tim Sniffen. Written by Tim Sniffen. Directed by Stuart Carden and Michael Halberstam. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr; no intermission.