Here’s looking at college kids
In allowing its students the opportunity to direct their own plays, Longview Community College offers audiences a chance to see raw talent flourish, as in the Longview Actors Guild’s take on the Woody Allen comedy Play It Again, Sam.
Allan Felix’s wife has just left him in search of a life that is bigger and better than the fairly regular one that he can offer. Heartbroken and lonely, Allan takes the audience on his wild ride through rejection and failure. Even when his friends Dick and Linda Christie fix him up with women, Allan just can’t seem to act like himself. Contributing to Allan’s inability to succeed is the fact that guiding his conscience is Humphrey Bogart, whose smooth approach on winning the interest of women doesn’t find success in Allan’s conquests. Finally, when Dick leaves for the weekend and Linda (Dick’s wife) and Allan spend quality time alone, Allan finds that he has feelings for Linda and is torn between acting upon his desires and honoring his friendship with Dick. Just before making the decision, Allan’s conscience is tormented by a visit from his ex-wife Nancy, who points out his irrationality and the potential harm that could stem from interfering in the marriage of his friends. Though help seems to be offered from all directions, it is Allan who must ultimately decide his own fate.
As student director, stage designer, and lead role of Allan Felix, Steven Eubank’s professional achievements seem to offer a surreal depiction of the next Woody Allen. In expression of all of the cynicism, wit, and humor that only Woody Allen can create, Eubank plays Allan as the funny little man that Woody Allen undoubtedly intended him to be. The audience can only fall in love with the clueless, awkward, lonely divorcee on the prowl to find a warm body to fill the void left by his estranged wife of just two weeks.
Frank Tebek marvelously emulates Allan Felix’s hero, the one and only Humphrey Bogart. Tebek’s take on Bogart truly departs from the traditionally clichéd portrayal of Bogart, allowing the audience to identify with that voice inside us all that motivates us to strive to be the people we want to be.
While Beth Siniawski as Linda Christie intends to portray a character that largely determines the nature of Allan’s romantic pursuit, Siniawski does little to distinguish Linda as anything out of the ordinary. Siniawski doesn’t seem to develop her part, failing to grab the attention of the audience until she becomes the object of Allan’s affection.
Jake Oakes portrays Linda’s workaholic husband, Dick Siniawski. Aside from the dialogue written for his part, everything about Oakes as a work-crazed businessman seems completely unnatural. Oakes’ facial expressions often appear inappropriate to a given situation, causing confusion to the audience as to the type of person Dick is supposed to be.
Jo-Lyn Wilt as Allan’s ex-wife, Nancy, accomplishes the task of whisking in and out of the story in order to torment Allan in his decision-making process. Easily and convincingly slipping into different characters, Wilt appears as various women whom Allan unsuccessfully attempts to sweep off their feet.
Like many of Woody Allen’s classic anecdotes, Play It Again, Sam offers both an excellent opportunity to laugh at the silly things we do for companionship, as well as insight into the conscience and its role in determining the decisions that we make. No doubt there’s a Humphrey Bogart in all of us, representing the hero whose path we strive to follow, yet often have difficulty figuring out how to get there.