By CHARLIE JARRETT
Special to the Gazette
This week I will invite you to experience a delightful evening of changing room silliness, in Kathryn G. McCarty’s delightful comedy, “The Fitting Room”, right here in the Campbell Theater. This is not your typical plot driven story, but rather a character driven story that seems to be more like the diary of a lady that worked in a department store and more specifically in the fitting room. Have you ever felt out of just plain curiosity, what it would be like to be a fly on a wall, where you could discreetly listen to all the unfiltered stories that take place between women and men, in private places? In this story, 14 actresses and actors change characters again and again (up to 41 times) in the course of selecting and trying and buying garments, where they also share their very personal thoughts, both pro and con, between friends and lovers, family and foes who accompany them into the fitting room.
In this story, set in Donaldson’s Department Store, somewhere in Minnesota in the mid-50s and early 60s, the audience is taken back to a time when the grand old department stores were the place to shop. Forty-one characters come and go into a fitting room, trying on an incredible variety of clothing (purportedly up to 400 different garments used in this show) during one work day. This story is a mad flurry of garment changes, purchases, and rejections. Two people are constant in the story; the fitting room attendant, Grace (Linda Sciacqua), who tries to keep the fitting room somewhat neat and orderly, but which, by the end of the day, has become almost impossible with so many people coming and going. The second lady, Barbara (Rhonda Hougland Bowen), is a somewhat inebriated woman suffering from severe anger and anxiety and rejection having just discovered that her husband is divorcing her for a much younger woman. It seems that on this day it has become her mission to engage in a madcap shopping spree spending as much of her soon-to-be ex-husband’s credit card limit as possible. Other actresses include these very talented performers, each playing a remarkable number of characters: Jennifer Lynn Brown Peabody (6), Erin McMann (4), Sheilah Morrison (4), Sarah Piane (5), Haley Kennen (5), Evelyn Owens (6), Allison Means (4), Rita Hamlin (4), Barry Hanau (4), Austin Maisler (3) and Craig Anderson (3).There are far too many character portrayals to delve much into their individual skits. You will just have to trust me that as there are a lot, they happen very quickly and are gone very quickly as well. For example, there is one scene where a young high school aged girl (Erin McMann) is in the dressing room with her legs and feet humorously observable as she lays on her back on the floor, trying desperately to squeeze her way into some very tight jeans, when she suddenly finds the zipper is stuck and she panics. Fearing she will damage the garment trying to remove it, she cries out to her girlfriend waiting outside the changing room, pleading earnestly for her to help her. Unfortunately, the young lady has locked the door from the inside, making it almost impossible for her girlfriend outside to help her shed the garment. The insane fun that follows is too funny to share and telling you would totally spoil the cake you would get, seeing it in person. The entire evening is one insane skit after another, happening in rapid fire order. I think you will find it a remarkably unique production in many funny ways!
“The Fitting Room” continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, with Thursday performances on June 20 and 27th at 7:30 PM followed by Sunday performances on June 23 and 30th at 2:30 PM. This comedy is in high the Martinez Campbell theater at 636 Ward St. in Martinez. General admission is $20 each, with students and seniors only $18 each. All Thursday tickets are a very reasonable $17 each. For ticket reservations you may visit online at https://fittingroom.brownpapertickets.com or call 925-350-9770, or visit the theater’s website itself at www.Campbelltheater.com.
I’ve spoken many times over the years to my readers about the incredible Belasco (children’s) Theater company that used perform in the Del Valle theater complex next door to Rossmoor on Tice Valley Boulevard in Walnut Creek. Eddie Belasco, the creator of the Belasco theater company, passed away a few years ago and two of the young ladies that I had reviewed as young actresses performing in his company (Jarusha Ariel and Shayna Ronen), went on to become professional actresses. As recently as 2017, they came back to our area and formed their own theater company (“I Can Do That Theater (ICDT)”) based on Eddie Belasco’s successful educational and actor training methods.
ICDT’s current show, “A Chorus Line,” was created in the early 1970s by Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, James Kirkwood Junior and Nicholas Dante. The Broadway story focused primarily on 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line and the musical opened at the Shubert Theater on Broadway in 1975 under the direction of Michael Bennett. It was an unprecedented box office hit, winning nine of its 12 Tony award nominations, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama. The ICDT theater production just about doubles the number of dancers (32) auditioning for a chorus line job (of which only eight finalists are needed), allowing their many delightful, talented and hard-working youth and young adult theatrical students to participate in this show.
The songs, the music, the coming-of-age and maturity comedy is just as delightful in the hands of these talented young performers as it is in community theater’s all across this country. The performers gather on the bare stage as director Zach (Benjamin Shaw) and assistant choreographer Larry (Scout Del Real) put them through their paces. Zach wants to have a better understanding as to what drives each of the auditioning dancers, how they became interested in and trained as dancers, what makes them tick and by delving into their personalities, the happiness and unhappiness of their childhood, and even of a few personal secrets. The auditioning process takes approximately one day in these performer’s ’s lives and as that day comes to a close, and the finalists are chosen, leaving with the audience a richly rewarding experience of the audition process.
There are far too many talented and wonderful young people to properly reward with appropriate kudos in this publication, but on the sterling side, Jordan Covington as Richie (probably in his early 20’s) is definitely a star-worthy dancer. Equally delightful in their performances are Rosie Corr (Cassie), Maya Batongbacal (Connie), Brian Doyle (Bobby), Ryan Styne (Sheila), and Sean Gin (Paul), whose touching, heartfelt, and reluctant revelations about a youth dealing with homosexuality, brought tears to my eyes.
“A Chorus Line” continues with performances this coming Friday (the 21st) at 7:30 PM, Saturday (the 22nd) at 2 PM and 7 PM, and closing on Sunday(23rd) with a 2 PM matinee. Tickets are available through the I Can Do That Web page at https://www.icandothattheatre.com/ where the “A Chorus Line “ page will pop up and the tickets link will show you the dates and show times. Click on “Buy Tickets”, select the desired date and ticket prices, and available seating and payment options will allow you to purchase the tickets. The Danville community center & theater is located at 420 Front St., Danville Ticket prices range between $15 for students, $18 for adult seniors and $20 for general admission. This is a wonderful show that I strongly recommend you attend. These talented hard-working young people deserve your support, love and encouragement. The I Can Do That Theater can be contacted at (925) 718-5899 and their studio/classroom is located at 101-E Town & Country Drive, Danville, CA 94526.