By Arlene McKanic
Moss Hart’s hilarious “Light Up the Sky,” presented by the Douglaston Community Theatre, is an examination of the folkways of stage actors and directors and the people who throw money at them, i.e., “very dubious people.”
Act I begins on the night of the premiere of a play by the neophyte playwright Peter Sloan, and one by one we’re introduced to the nutcases who whizz around him like anxious, adoring moths. There’s Frances Black (a perfect Jennifer di Matteo), the charming, vulgar wife of Sidney Black, the theater angel who has put up $300,000 (he wants everybody to know this), and friend of the amusingly sour Stella Livingston (Marilyn Welsher) with whom she’s involved in a perpetual game of gin.
There’s the milquetoast director, Carlton Fitzgerald (Frank Freeman) with his silk scarf, his insistence that this is the greatest play ever and belief in theater being some sort of religious experience anyway. Also sure that Sloan’s “beautiful play” is one for the ages is the overwrought — natch — Irene Livingston (Faith Elliott). Stella has the bad fortune to be her mother.
But nobody believes in the play like Sidney, played by the always amazing Kevin C. Vincent. Why else would he sink $300,000 into this if it wasn’t a masterpiece? The only one who understands all this horse hockey for what it is is the older and wiser playwright, Owen Turner (Michael Wolf). He knows exactly what’s going to happen, and it does.
Sloan’s play, which seems to be an allegory about a nuclear holocaust or something, bombs. Really, really badly. One of “Light Up the Sky”’s delights is watching Vincent’s eyeballs shoot daggers when he realizes he’s just blown his $300,000 on a turkey.
And those who once sung its praises and the praises of the playwright turn on both of them. The callow Sloan is shattered, disillusioned and headed for the first plane out of Boston. But then, there are developments.
The cast has a ball with this play. Along with those mentioned are Annette Daiell as Miss Lowell, who is actually ghostwriting Irene’s autobiography, and is a rare example of levelheadedness. Dan Bubbeo plays Tyler Rayburn, Irene’s simpering husband (who on earth would marry her?), a Wall Street honcho who’s too happy to be his wife’s flunky. Coming late into the mess is William H. Gallegher (the very funny and pompous Peter Vrankovic), with his red fez, who wants to join the theater.
Tom Williams directs and he has a stellar crew to go along with his stellar cast and Moss Hart’s snappy dialogue. The play takes place at the Ritz and the reviewer has not lately seen a set design so appropriately posh, with graceful furniture, a lovely mantelpiece, red wallpaper, flowers, Western Union telegrams everywhere, and that ultimate signifier of upper-crustiness, a wet bar with bottles of expensive potables. Props must go to Tom Williams, John Palmieri, Keith Junas, Vincent and Marionanne Rourke. Rourke, especially, is responsible for the props, and I wonder if that included the jewelry and the costumes, which are sumptuous — at one point Elliott wears a sequined jacket to die for.
Palmieri, who also did the lighting, knows how to focus his spotlights in a way that make every ring, necklace, earring, tiara and sequin sizzle. More, the reviewer saw the play during a matinee with the auditorium half-full of late afternoon sunlight. The jewels still sparkled. The mouth watered.
“Light Up the Sky” will be at the Zion Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Douglaston through Oct. 23. Go see it — it’s a scream.