A Fool And His Honey, or: On The Hazards Of Sitting In The Front Row When One Of Your Best Friends Is The Star

It’s likely an obvious statement I’m about to make, especially if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, but one of the things I love about my job is getting to follow, chart, even influence the evolution of a creative work.  When the film premieres, when the play opens, that’s the beginning for the audience, but for those of us on the other side of those seats, it’s just one more step in a process that never really ends.

And when you’re in on that process from the beginning, you know that from conception to reception, the slightest change can make all the difference.  Which brings us to the Cameo Theatre.

For much of the last month, the Cameo has been home to the cast and crew of Romantic Fools, a collection of short comedic pieces by Rich Orloff.  Together in one show, the scenes effectively cover the full spectrum of male-female relationships.  Dating, sex, marriage – it’s all there, in one form or another.

The play is typically performed with two actors – one male, one female – performing all the roles.  Given that we’re typically looking at roughly 20 characters altogether, it’s a challenge to have so many characters to work with.  You need two really strong actors to pull off something like this.  And for the Cameo’s production, Dave Cortez (as director) found the perfect duo in Robert Jerdee and Nikki Young.

Nikki’s casting, of course, brought me into the production as her assistant.  Which in turn allowed me the opportunity to sit in on some of the rehearsals and watch her, Robert, and Dave as they wrestled with the material.  Literally.

From the early read-throughs to the final dress rehearsals, the potential in Romantic Fools was evident.  The chemistry and enthusiasm were there from the beginning, and as the three grew more familiar with the material, they grew even more confident with it, developing a narrative arc from the self-contained vignettes.  By the final rehearsal on Thursday night, the play had almost come together.  All it needed was one thing, that slightest change.

The addition of the audience.

And so came last night.  That night all stage actors work for.  Opening Night.

My reservation placed me in the front row, with a great view of the play.  Of course, it also gave the play a great view of me.  Bear in mind that the script for Romantic Fools encourages, even requires the actors to interact with the audience, and try to pry their most embarrassing secrets out of them.  Given that one of said actors was Nikki, you can guess the first place she looked…

But it was all in good fun, like the rest of the play.  Nikki and Robert did a great job bringing the story and characters to life; just a few of the highlights included Robert’s turn as a possibly deranged wedding planner; Nikki’s performance as The Ultimate Crazy Chick; an orgiastic tribute to Abbott & Costello; and the play’s final scene, in which the comic insanity gives way to a moment of genuine sweetness.  You’ll laugh at Lori’s and Andrew’s misadventures, but at the end you’ll realize that you’ve really been rooting for them all along.

It was a great opening night, and a great reminder that plays are meant to be performed in front of people.  Actors will always bring their own energy to a performance, but they also thrive on the energy we, the audience, bring to it.  That bond is the heart of live theatre.  It’s what makes plays like Romantic Fools so much fun to perform and watch.

And you really should make an effort to watch this one.  To which end, you have a few more chances, as the play’s running through March 13.  Curtain time’s at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays; for ticket prices and reservations, you can call the Cameo’s box office at 210.212.5454 or visit the theater’s website.

I’ve had a great time watching Romantic Fools come to life, and based on the opening-night crowd, I think audiences will feel, and share, the hard work and enthusiasm that Dave, Robert, Nikki, John, MamaLuisa, Brandi, and all the crew have put into this show.  I’ll be back for at least one more performance, so I hope you’ll join me there.

Until then, thanks as always for your support, and “be seeing you…”

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