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Queens Chronicle

Behind the scenes of community theater

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Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012 10:30 am

It’s rather perplexing that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick’s little-known “Macbeth Did It” isn’t performed more frequently, especially on the community theater level.

The play requires no set, making it easy on the budget and the workforce. It revolves around the mounting of a local production, so it has a built-in familiarity factor, and it offers a wide variety of roles — various ages, ethnicities and character types.

As evidenced Saturday night in Theatre Time Productions’ current mounting, it’s also big on the laughs. Despite its title, which might lead one to expect a murder mystery, this is a comedy through and through.

The opening image in the play is of a man named Juanito, a theater janitor who is sweeping the stage as auditions for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” are about to begin.

The audience is taken through the theatrical process, from casting to rehearsals to opening night. It becomes clear from the outset, when Juanito unwittingly locks out the assortment of hapless individuals who have come to audition, that things will not be going smoothly.

The role of Lady Macbeth has been entrusted to an actress named Dolly Dibble — highly temperamental but married to the theater’s owner, and, therefore, a shoo-in. This, among other issues, causes high anxiety for the play’s director, Larry Rencher, who awaits his crack at the big time.

A particular thorn in his side is the local sheriff’s daughter, Mary Lou Steiner, who not only employs her feminine wiles to come between Rencher and Jill Sears, his production assistant who hopes to marry him some day, but gradually takes over the directorial reins, as well.

A lost contact lens, mistimed sound cues, and the witches’ cauldron that ends up stuck on someone’s head in the slapstick-heavy third and final act all contribute to the pandemonium.

Kevin Vincent, who, along with his wife, Judy, founded Theatre Time Productions in 1997, has directed the play, the group’s first at its new home in Bayside, with his usual affection for the material. And the large cast he has assembled — 18 in all — play off each other, unlike the actors in the play within the play, as if they’re actually enjoying themselves.

Their high spirits on Saturday night, the play’s second performance, proved infectious, as many in the audience were laughing out loud.

Peter Vrankovic is ideally suited to the role of Larry Rencher, which he took over on unusually short notice. He makes the character’s growing exasperation palpable and, in one of the play’s highlights, when he finally erupts, it’s unlikely that any onlookers could blame him.

Unfortunately, the two ladies vying for his attention are less successful. Lisa Lawrence as Jill delivers nearly every one of her many lines in the same exaggerated tone.And Jennifer Pappas is simply too young as the femme fatale.

Stage veteran Marilyn Welsher has a grand old time as the ever-demanding Dolly.

Joey Lindicy, making a memorable acting debut as Juanito, employs good timing, which his 15-year career as a stand-up comedian helped him develop. He is a natural.

Fran Palazzo earns laughs as one of the three witches, and Michelle Ross is extremely funny in her opening scene, when a cold hampers her speech during her audition for another one of the witches.

Anyone who has ever been involved in community theater will be able to identify with the all-too-true-to-life goings-on on stage. Everyone else will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse for themselves.

‘Macbeth Did It’

When: Oct. 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.

Where: Colonial Church of Bayside, 54-02 271 St.

Tickets: $16; $14 for seniors and students

(347) 358-8102

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