Thursday 26th April to Saturday 28th April and Tuesday 1st May to Saturday 5th May 2007
Directed by Mark Wakeman
Allan Felix loves being married! So does his wife, but unfortunately not to Allan.
Dick wants to help his newly divorced and desperate best friend but is currently fending off his fourth bankruptcy, so implores his wife Linda to re-launch Allan onto New York's single scene and bring him up to date with the rules of the dating game.
However, a series of disastrous dates looking for "The One" leads Allan to realise that she has been in front of him the whole time. Unfortunately she is already "The One" to another man... Dick.
When this love triangle comes crashing together it's going to be 'Casablanca' for someone. A hilarious comedy from the master of wit who wrote 'Manhattan' and 'Annie Hall'.
Woody Allen started writing 'Play it Again, Sam' in 1968 while he was doing stand-up comedy in Chicago. Originally entitled 'Aspirins for Three', the play premiered at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1969, ran for 453 performances and was nominated for 3 Tony awards. It was also made in to a film in 1972 starring Allen himself and his ex-lover, Diane Keaton.
The action takes place in Allan Felix's New York apartment in the 1970s, from late summer, over a period of several weeks. Allan has just been through a messy divorce. His two friends, Linda and Dick convince him to go out with women again. Throughout the play, he is seen receiving dating advice from the ghost of Humphrey Bogart who is visible and audible only to Allan. Allan's ex-wife Nancy also makes fantasy appearances, as he imagines conversations with her about the breakdown of their marriage.
Eventually, Allan develops feelings for Linda. However, as she is married to Dick, their relationship is ultimately doomed, just as it was for Rick and Ilsa in the 1942 film, Casablanca. The ending is a parody of Casablanca's famous ending. The fog, the trench coats worn and the dialogue are all reminiscent of the film, as Allan nobly explains to Linda why she has to go with her husband, rather than staying behind with him.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Girlfriends||Robyn Hunt |
|Assistant Director||Zoë Chapman|
|Stage Manager||John Wilcox|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Sian Green |
|Lighting Design||Robin Hall |
|Lighting Operation||Dan Finch|
|Sound Designer||Darryl Wakelin|
|Sound Operation||Robin Hall |
|Costume and Props||Francine Huin-Wah|
|Production Design||Francine Huin-Wah|
|Set Construction||Sue Dawes |
|Programme Designer||Lorraine Galliers|
|Production Photography||Andrew Iles|
|Front of House Manager||Megan Green|
I first discovered Woody Allen in my bed. He wasn't in my bed, you understand, I was, he was just on the television and it was on an entirely different occasion, still including my bed though, that I discovered 'Play it Again Sam'. I can assure you this does not mean that I spend most of my waking life in bed, it was just a big co-incidence.
Like a lot of overweight children, I discovered that comedy was a good way of avoiding relentless beatings and name-calling at school and so I was always seeking new sources of humour which I could fob off as my own (most nine year-olds aren't that versed in the history of comedy so there was a whole untapped area that I could plagiarise then and now), and because of this an interest in comedy began which has lasted to this day.
My parents had introduced me to my early comedy heroes like Laurel and Hardy through BBC2's extremely useful film seasons. Then one day BBC2 announced a Woody Allen season. My parents were not fans and advised me against watching. But he looked pretty funny... although his films weren't shown until 9pm when I was supposed to be tucked up in bed... however there was an old black and white portable in my room and at nine I turned on BBC2, sitting as close to the screen as possible with the sound at the bare minimum to prevent angryius parentis interuptus and watched my first Woody Allen; 'Love and Death'. I didn't understand all of it but I did find it amusing. So over the next couple of weeks I snuck in some more.
When I was older I was exposed to more of his films and found that I enjoyed them immensely but I didn't see 'Play it Again Sam' until my room-mate at university revealed that he directed and starred in a version of the play at college and offered to show me this video. So we sat together on my bed with our cans of cheap lager and watched the film.
in my directing at the Bench, I have been working my way through the various sub genres of comedy, madcap farce, period, black comedy, etc and my mind wandered to Mr Allen's work, so that led me to 'Play it Again, Sam' and my first attempt at a romantic comedy.
I hope you enjoy the show. I'd like to take this chance to thank my cast and crew for all their hard efforts and ask you to clap and cheer very loudly at the end because they deserve it. I'd also like to thank you for supporting local theatre because without you we wouldn't get to do this, so keep on coming. Enjoy the show!
The message of Woody Allen's play is "Don't try too hard." So it's a pity director Mark Wakeman and lead actor Jeff Bone do exactly that. Unless a performer has the ability of Allen himself, neurosis tends to be better under-performed than over-performed, and the fact is that the less manic Bench Theatre's production becomes, the funnier and more truthful it is.
Wakeman is too inclined to have his characters pacing endlessly and tiresomely back and forth, and Bone needs to let the words do more of the talking. He plays an oddball film critic, Allen Felix, who is obsessed with Humphrey Bogart's Casablanca and demoralised by his wife's parting shot: "I don't dig you physically, but don't take it personal."
In a series of fantasy scenes, he takes inspiration from Bogart himself - a role in which Alan Welton shows a fine mastery of the laconic style - with some success. The touching nature of this aspect, and the precision of other fantasy scenes in which Allen Felix plays out a couple of pastiche Noel Coward sketches, show the production at its best.
Darryl Wakelin is properly deadpan as the friend obsessed with business and Francine Huin-Wah plays his wife with natural warmth and honesty. The 90-minute production is played without an interval. Until May 5.
The News, 27th April 2007