Shortly after this production began, I couldn’t help but wonder: Has the writer ever seen a play? The plot holes are gaping, the mechanics of its world grating, and the general vibe of the production is: “Let’s do a show about theatre without addressing the way theatre actually works!”.
Bucky Mitchell Jr’s production starts moments before a group of actors are about to open a show. That they have rehearsed. For “weeks”. The presumed lead in our play-within-a-play then takes question with a line he has been asked to hear. Not deliver. Just hear. He debates how to hear said line for the rest of the show. He is then instructed by each of his fellow, veteran, actors how they would go about tackling the entirety of his character.
Literally. They state their method of acting and proceed to tell us how Stanislavsky (Stanskilloffsky?!) or Chekhov would go about acting. No one consults the director. No one asks why the lead didn’t mention he had never acted before getting cast in a show with a “Tony winner”. They just argue about who has the best acting style.
This play reads like a grad school thesis that still needs some defending. A “play for theatre people who know theatre and really like talking about theatre” we are bludgeoned with an almost stream of monologues about acting styles. Spoiler alert: We leave the show not knowing which is the best method! Is it “method acting”?? We shall have to discuss over a Prosecco, because the play takes no stance in any direction. Just that there are, in fact, at least 5 styles in which one can act.
All that aside, this show does pass the Bechdel Test! Which, for a Fringe show, is kind of astounding! Granted, there are only two women in the show, and their characters hate each other. But it still technically counts!
Before the Lights Go Up
Written and directed by Bucky Mitchell Jr
Details and tickets
Jaylene Arnold does a great job as the cold but invested Reggie, even though she spends almost an hour putting on make up. Marlon Russ is great as an actor of few words but with a clear purpose. The program omitted the actor playing Henry, (I believe his name was Howard?) but he was ABSOLUTELY the stand out of the show as the oft-belittled “fairy”.
The set is quite lovely, if not realistic. Maybe it’s the actor in me, but they have the most oddly-laid-out unisex dressing room I’ve ever seen. That being said, it serves the stage well, allowing our protagonist to flow from one actor’s area to another with ease. Enough dressings have been allotted that we are never staring at an actor staring back at us with nothing to do. The costumes thrust each character, and their personas, forward without being heavy handed.
In total, there is not much to be learned about the art of acting from this show. But if you’re looking to get a brief introduction to acting styles, this is your show!
Before The Lights Go Up. Written and Directed by Bucky Mitchell Jr. . Cast: Chris Hrozencik, Charlotte Blacklock, Jaylene Arnold, Jarrett Arnold, Marlon Russ, and the actor playing Henry . Set and Costumes: Bucky Mitchell Jr. . Reviewed by Christian Sullivan.