Regional Reviews: San Francisco
I Ought to Be in Pictures
Saturday we caught Neil Simon's sweet and touching comedy I Ought to Be in Pictures at the California Theatre Center. This group, under general director Gayle Cornelison, usually presents four productions during the summer season. Their other productions are Noël Coward's Hay Fever, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Ms. Cornelison's adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, playing concurrently with the Simon comedy. During the school year, California Theatre Center performs primarily for elementary schoolchildren and tours nationally and internationally.
I Ought to Be in Pictures is standard Neil Simon fare. There are the usual bright, witty characters with the sharp dialogue for which Mr. Simon is famous. The play contains the standard dysfunctional family relationships and the sentiment just below the surface, waiting to be gushed over. However, in this play Simon finds a new depth to relationships.
The comedy originally opened on April 30, 1980 at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in New York. Tony Curtis was supposed to star as the once successful Hollywood script writer. However, he pulled out during the Los Angeles tryout and Ron Leibman stepped inwhen the show opened in New York. The play ran 324 performances and received good reviews from the New York papers. Joyce Van Patten and Tony winner Dinah Manoff were also in the play.
Herb, a once successful Hollywood scriptwriter, is having a dry run of his writing abilities. He has been estranged from his Brooklyn family for 16 years and has gone through three wives. Suddenly he is confronted by his almost forgotten teenage daughter, Libby, from Brooklyn who suddenly shows up with a back pack at his front door. She wants to be a Hollywood actress. Herb is not ready for this intrusion, but Libby's request for an entree into Hollywood masks a desire to retrieve their relationship. How they pick up the pieces of this father-daughter relationship is a poignant, tender and funny story. This is an emotional play full of laughter and tears.
The three actors in this production are young and very talented . The 19 year old Libby is played Anitra Brumagen. Libby is not just a mouthy New York City kid, but a bright, aware young adult with a chip on her shoulder that she has resolved to shake off. Ms. Brumagen is a very talented actress and she does her best work in the second act. I must admit I was a little thrown off by a voice between Streisand and The Nanny at first; however, I found that she softened the tone later in the production. She is particularly good in the second act scenes between father and daughter.
Arion Alston, as Herb, is able to show the character's frustration with Libby's unrealistic optimism. He projects a caring father in the second act. It is a solid performance. Steffy Blondell rounds out the three person cast as the girl friend. She is excellent in her rather small role. Direction by Will Huddleston is solid.
I Ought to Be in Pictures will be playing through July 22nd along with the other three productions at the Sunnyvale Community Center Theatre, 505 East Remington Drive in Sunnyvale, Ca. Tickets run from $18 to $25. You can call the box office at 408-720-0873 or visit them online at www.ctcinc.org.