It’s Only A Play is a star-studded comedy revival about the ups and downs of a new play’s opening night on Broadway. Originally, the play ran off-Broadway in 1986, but the highly topical, name-dropping jokes couldn’t have been updated more perfectly. It’s Only a Play tracks a group of show people through an evening of anxiously awaiting reviews for Broadway’s newest flop of a play.
At start, curtains rise on the opening night party for “The Golden Egg,” a new American play written by the hopeful, though somewhat overly so, Peter Austin (Matthew Broderick). The director of the play is British golden boy Frank Finger (Rupert Grint), who can apparently do no wrong by critics. The play is produced by the spacey and spastic first-time producer Julia Budder (Megan Mullaly), and stars the ankle monitor-toting actress Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing). Of course, the television star, James Wicker (Nathan Lane), for whom the leading role was written is in attendance, as is the aspiring-actor-slash-coat-boy, Gus (Micah Stock). Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper party if the least receptive theatre critic, Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham), weren’t in attendance.
The plot is fairly straightforward, depicting the hours immediately following the play’s opening in Budder’s gorgeously designed (thanks to Scott Pask) New York bedroom. As the characters await the reviews for the new play, friendships are tested, lessons are learned, and, most importantly, hilarity ensues. The comedic style of the play depends highly on at least a somewhat basic knowledge of theatre personalities and celebrities. The play generates the most laughs at the expense of names like Kelly Ripa, Shia LaBeouf, and Harvey Firestein. These jokes, which in the original production were references to celebrities of the 1980’s, have been perfected to be timely and fitting for new audiences.
As for the performers themselves, it’s amazing to see so many huge personalities on stage at the same time. Lane, Channing, and Mullaly particularly shine, showing off their comedic chops with perfectly timed and delivered zingers. Abraham delivers what is perhaps the most welcome surprise as the critic, who, despite his reputation as a brutal snob, can be downright zany. Perhaps the only two disappointments in my mind were Stock, who has either chosen to be the most brutally awkward character to appear on stage or simply isn’t comfortable quite yet in his role, and Broderick, whose ostentatiousness is difficult to grow accustomed to in a room full of such sharp and immediately likeable comedic personalities. It is worth noting, though, that Broderick’s performance is wonderful once you become accustomed to it. It is also worth mentioning that at two and a half hours, the runtime may seem somewhat long, especially considering (as the title suggests) it’s only a play.Overall, It’s Only a Play shines as a comedy about an evening with the best people in the world, theatre people. It shows the moments of suspense leading up to the first reviews, and gives the audience a great variety of hilarious personalities to entertain them. Anyone who loves the theatre, and has at least some idea who Harvey Firestein is, will likely find themselves thoroughly satisfied.
Review By: Jacob R. Hines
Photos By: Joan Marcus