A leading luxury travel consultant named Jim Strong has put together and produced a 75 minute sparkling commercial about his field of expertise. It’s called Craving For Travel, which happens to be the name of the app he’s invented for the iPhone and iPad. It’s not a play, it’s an out and out entertainment, and would make ideal audition material for two bright comic actors named Michele Ragusa and Thom Sesma*, who should be signed up immediately for “Saturday Night Live”.
The form of this divertissement is a competition between Gary and Joanne, two rival travel agents and former spouses, for their industry’s most prestigious honor; the Globel Prize They make for very jolly jousters, each equipped with the latest electronic helpmates, each housed in the latest in office design high fashion. On stage right we have Gary and his Bolton Travel, on stage left Joanne and her Jetaway Getaways. Both cater to a long list of demanding clients who range from demanding dowagers with dogs to Patti LuPone, to overbooked flights and oversold hotels, all played by just the two of them, with great glee and considerable talent.
The two actors play everyone, and that means 30 characters. They each have a miraculous way of transforming themselves into just about anyone at all — she from a somnambulant housewife to a Lithuanian princess (you must hear how she pronounces her native land) to the diva Patti LuPone herself – he from a silky smooth Lothario to a most happy fella to an almost everything else. Their timing is perfection, and when they hit a stretch of all the phones ringing at once, forcing some calls to be put on hold, some on three-way connections, their verbal and corporal dexterity is positively dazzling. Of substance there is none, and one thinks of lemon chiffon pie when it comes to consistency. But lemon chiffon pie can sometimes hit the spot.
Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg have written this delicious piece of fluff, and Mr. Sandberg has kept it afloat in his staging. There is no way in which this very talented foursome is going to avoid the sitcom route to fame and fortune, for Craving For Travel has all the ingredients that have made hits of “Parks and Recreation”, “Veep”, “Seinfeld” and others dealing with the slightly crazed 21st century thirtysomethings. They could populate any number of such series with the characters they’ve created in this shining example of their ability to write and play zanies. The only things missing in this production are the actors who could inhabit their characters with the same zeal, polish and invention delivered by Ragusa and Sesma.
Until such a series emerges however, you might have a lot of fun dropping in on this sort of audition piece, in which you’ll be introduced to two appealing leads and thirty or so beautifully drawn supporting players.
Craving for Travel is onstage at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 W 42nd St, fourth floor, NYC. Details and tickets
*Washington area audiences will remember Thom Sesma from his role as the Engineer in Signature Theatre’s 2013 production of Miss Saigon.
Richard Seff, Broadway performer, agent, playwright, librettist, columnist adds novelist to his string of accomplishments, with the publication of his first novel, TAKE A GIANT STEP. His first book, Supporting Player: My Life Upon the Wicked Stage, celebrates his lifetime on stage and behind the scenes. Both books are available through online booksellers, including Amazon.com.
He has also written the book to SHINE! The Horatio Alger Musical which was a triple prize winner at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). Each year, Actors Equity recognizes the year’s most outstanding supporting player with, appropriately enough, the Richard Seff Award.