Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Review
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened its first show of 2018 with the comedy “Anton in Show Business” on February 1. Additional run dates are February 7, 8, and 9.
Anton was written by the pseudonymous Jane Martin and debuted in 2000 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville; it was selected by the American Theatre Critics Association as the best play of the year. Extensive speculation about the playwright’s identity has continued for years within the theatre community; John Jory, a past artistic director at Actors Theatre, has emerged as the consensus candidate.
Seven talented female Douglas Anderson students portray fifteen adult characters in an engaging display of comedic skills. Anton begins in New York with auditions for Three Sisters, a play by Anton Chekov which debuted in Moscow in 1901. The production is to be staged at a regional theatre in San Antonio, Texas. Tess Therrien plays Lisabette, a young vivacious elementary school teacher who is auditioning for the first time. Emma Towler portrays Casey, an Off-Off Broadway actress who has appeared in production after production (200 of them) without ever having been paid. Maya Pinfield appears as Holly, a television soap opera star noted for her beauty; she has 19 million fans of just her legs. She wants more; she longs for creditability as an actress along with a movie role, and is certain that a stage appearance in a “serious play” will lead to even bigger things for her.
The last solo performer is Joby, portrayed by Hannah Freeman, who annoyingly questions cast members and comments on their actions throughout the performance while seated in the audience. We later learn that she is a theatre critic for a weekly shopping guide.
The three remaining actors portray multiple roles. Mirokal Greason first appears as T-Anne, a stage manager with attitude who provides an introductory lecture about the state of American theatre. She returns in the second act as Don Blout, a big-talking officer of the tobacco company sponsoring the show. Additional roles include that of the artistic director of an ensemble and an airport announcer.Jaionni McGowan appears first as Ralph, an overbearing and conceited British director, and then returns in the second act as Wikéwitch, a Polish director with a heavy accent. She also has a short appearance as an airport gate manager. Natasha Dvorak appears in four roles. Kate is a New York theatre producer, well-educated, knowledgeable about theatre, and briskly efficient. As Ben, Ms. Dvorak dons a pair of jeans and a cowboy hat, and becomes a Texas county music singer who falls in love with the beguiling Holly. Jackey is a costume designer; Joe Bob is a business man.
The script offers a broad critique of business issues and many of the roles connected with theatre, including grandiose directors, disruptive critics, unscrupulous sponsors, and unappreciative audiences. The result is a hard look at American theater mixed with humor.
The show is performed in DA’s Black Box Theatre, on an open stage with rolling chairs and props. Scenic Designer Nolan O’Dell has hung theatre scripts from the rafters and stashed suitcases in corners to suggest frequent travel by professional actors. The efficient and well-coordinated scene changers included Jane Robinson, Mackenzie Shuman, Marla Eisman, Isabella Adeeb, Carmen Erickson, and Anna Toutain.Tianna Matthews’ costume designs had the cast doing frequent changes, which helped mark the passage of time.
“Anton” was directed by DA staff member Bonnie Harrison. The Dual Critics are familiar with her talents from past experience reviewing productions at Gainesville’s Hippodrome Theatre, where she worked for twelve years. Her many years of performing and teaching are evident in this excellent production, and we want to thank her for her understanding and portrayal of the play’s many nuances.
While audience members don’t need to know anything about Chekhov to enjoy Anton, those who are familiar with Three Sisters will recognize allusions to the script from time to time.
We noted that most of the actors in Anton were juniors at DA; we are looking forward to seeing them in future plays through the next school year.
Up next at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts is the classic Picnic, directed by Simone Aden-Reid and on stage in the Blackbox during April 12 – 26.
For tickets to Anton and other performances, call the box office at 904-346-5620.