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The Book Club Play

a Comedy
by Karen Zacarias

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4469

SHOWING : May 17, 2013 - June 23, 2013



Laughs, Love & Literature

A hilarious comedy about a book club bound for pandemonium. Ana lives in a letter-perfect world with an adoring husband, the perfect job, and her greatest passion: Book Club. But when the tight-knit group becomes the focus of a documentary film, their intimate discussions about life and literature take an uproarious turn in front of the inescapable camera lens. Add a club-crashing newcomer along with some provocative book titles, and long-standing group dynamics begin to unravel. Will their beloved book club survive?

Don’t miss this delightful new play about books and the people who love them.

Director Jeff Adler
Will John Benzinger
Rob Bryan Brendle
Lily Danielle Deadwyler
Ana Wendy Melkonian
Jen Maria Sager
Alex Dan Triandaflo
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Glib and Facile
by playgoer
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
In many ways, Karen Zacarias’ "The Book Club Play" is a sitcom lite version of Theresa Rebeck’s "Seminar." Both deal with people reading fiction and commenting on it. In the case of "Seminar," we have a writing coach and his students; in "The Book Club Play," we have Ana Smith and her book club. The premises have some similarities, but the tones and content are very different. "Seminar" is the serious play, with the brutal writing coach inflicting havoc on the psyches of his striving students as he reads and comments on their work. In "The Book Club Play," we have a group of avocational readers (one of whom doesn’t even read the assigned books), and the discussion is often sidetracked from a focus on the literary works. It’s all played for comedy.

Horizon Theatre Company is putting on a very entertaining production of "The Book Club Play." The attractive cast has jelled beautifully, and Jeff Adler’s direction gives them free rein to react comically to each moment in the show. With the exception of Ana (Wendy Melkonian), each cast member does double duty, playing both a member of the book club and, during a scene break, delivering a book-related monologue as another character altogether. I was a little disappointed that Ms. Melkonian didn’t get to let loose as another monologuist, since I’m sure her comic timing would have added to whatever bit she did.

The main set, by Moriah & Isabel Curley-Clay, is an elegant living room with corner bar and bookcases. The monologues sometimes tweak this, using Mary Parker’s lights to focus action on a particular piece of the set that has been transformed to another locale. My favorite monologue, however, was by Bryan Brendle as a Texas Walmart manager, and that required nothing but illumination as he walked down stairs from the audience and onto the stage. Costume designer Abby Parker gave him a nice cowboy hat for this bit, and provided nice changes of clothes for everyone.

Props by Christa Seekatz populate the bar area convincingly, but the bookcases didn’t convince me that an avid reader lived in the space. There were too many volume sets and too many photos in empty spaces to make me believe that these were books Ana had personally read and stuffed away.

The biggest disappointment to me on the technical side, though, is in Jon Summers’ so-called "video design." This design consists of titles projected on two upper walls of the set to identify the book/author being discussed in each scene, or the name/location of the monologuist speaking. At the end of the first act, these projections show a double-line "pause" icon, and at the start of the second act, they turn to the right-arrow "play" icon. Perhaps it was meant to be cute and ironic, but to me it looked amateurish and sloppy.

One of the monologue projections reinforced this impression. Dan Triandiflou appeared in a prison jumpsuit as "Framington MA" was projected. Framington, Massachusetts doesn’t exist. Framingham does, and it does house a prison, but it’s a women’s prison. I don’t know if the titles are present in Ms. Zacarias’ script, in which case the fault might be hers, but it’s a sloppy moment in a show that otherwise gauges its effects knowingly.

There’s a lot to like in this production. Besides the actors already mentioned, Maria Rodriguez-Sager delights as a woman with a bit of a past, John Benzinger convinces as a closeted is-he-or-isn’t-he-gay guy, and Danielle Deadwyler points up all the comedy inherent in her being the sole Akron-American in the group.

The books being discussed start with "Moby Dick" and rapidly diminish in literary importance to end with "Return of Tarzan." It’s a well-crafted show, with each book club meeting revealing more and more to the audience about the lives of these characters. The reveals are reminiscent of a TV reality show, and one of the layers of the concept is that the book club meetings are being filmed to be part of a documentary by an acclaimed Danish director. This is popular entertainment, taking elements of current popular culture (book clubs, reality shows) and packaging them for a theatrical audience. It’s not deep or insightful, but it plays out its plot points in a satisfying manner, wrapping things up neatly (if glibly) by the end. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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