|VOICE LESSONS - 2009
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"Metcalf is a comedic force of nature."
"Stewart provides the perfect foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and Flanagan's lovely cameo."
"Tanner's latest legit outing offers an uproarious and compelling glimpse at characters trapped within the inequitable reality of their lost lives and hopeless dreams."
"A comic gem in every department from Justin Tanner and company."
"This little jewel is one of the best Tanners yet, for anybody who loves actors, their coaches and laughter."
This is the must see play of the year!
Thumbs way up for Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart and Maile Flanagan (who's interview with Boy About Town was in yesterday's post).
These three powerhouses combine to make a super nova of a cast! Do not wait because tickets are selling out fast!
Reviewed by Cedric & Reyna of "KIDS ABOUT TOWN"
To read full review:
GO! Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom shoots darts at a trio of characters who are tied to the dart board by their transparent lunacies and hubris...
In earlier plays, like Pot Mom, Tanner stumbled onto an insight that unearthed the unseen side of a stereotype. His skills at structure, one-liners and caricature are so sharply honed, his persisting challenging is finding something worth saying. Tanner's parody is directed at the vicious and deluded vanity of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia (Laurie Metcalf), trying to claw her way to TV fame. Can a target get any easier? She cements her ambitions to a voice teacher, Nate (French Stewart), whose initial mask of respectability and ethics slithers down the greasy pole of his own personal desperation. Maile Flanagan further inflates the farce, portraying Nate's zaftig live-in girlfriend, setting up a catfight over the forlorn and increasingly sleazy teacher. For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining thanks to the irrepressible talents of the cast.
With a deep and slightly nasal voice, and deadpan responses that should be copyrighted for the mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and Flanagan's lovely cameo.
DeLorenzo deserves credit for the comedy's sculpted timing, and Gary Guidinger's set and lighting depicts with realistic detail the frayed fortress of Nate's living room.
Review by Steven Leigh Morris
It's a rarified theatrical treat when artifice melts away and all that's apparent onstage is human interaction and believable character behavior. From the pen of playwright Justin Tanner ordinary situations are regularly tweaked, toned, under-toned, and scripted so that audiences can be made to feel as if they are observing real people in authentic, and strangely familiar, circumstances.
Review by Ben Miles
Regarding VOICE LESSONS: ...oh-so-snappy sendup of L.A.'s prevailing star-wannabe syndrome, from L.A. theater's most distinctive comic voice, Justin Tanner, and the invaluable director Bart DeLorenzo.
The hilarious Laurie Metcalf peerlessly portrays a talentless diva-in-training. French Stewart -- usually known for over-the-top craziness -- demonstrates that he's equally expert as the droll foil, and Maile Flanagan almost steals the show as the other woman.
Review by Don Shirley
GRIGWARE TALKS THEATRE
Tanner's writing is deliciously way off center and over-the-top, and with Bart DeLorenzo creating the perfect phrenetic pace, the 55 minute piece whizzes by in what seems like a flash. Instrumental musical background between scenes of the very theatrical Phantom of the Opera and West Side Story, to name a couple, enriches the highs of the action, as does Ginny's favorite love song, whose infamous popularity- gotta love it, gotta hate it- makes the perfect finale for this twisted story.
This is theatricality at its best, and is just about the funniest one-act I've seen in a very long while!
5 out of 5 stars
Review by Don Grigware
It may appear to be a musical, but playwright Justin Tanner's Voice Lessons¯ is 75 minutes of sidesplitting laughter.
Bart De Lorenzo's direction is perfect. The pace is fast and the energy frenetic, except in the moments when either character stops to give a look that could kill. These pauses make for hilarious comedic moments.
Review by Audrey Linden
For more than 20 years, playwright Justin Tanner has dissected the inherently flawed lives of average people struggling cluelessly to elevate themselves beyond their limited capacities. With the three-hander "Voice Lessons," Tanner has infused his quirky insight and jaundiced sense of humor (honed through 16 produced stageworks) within the hilarious machinations of self-deluded community theater actress Virginia (Laurie Metcalf) and her catatonically despairing vocal coach Nate (French Stewart).
Helmers Bart De Lorenzo and Tanner expertly allow this colorful duo free rein to have at each other while thrusting the scripter's inspired tragi-comedic agenda relentlessly forward.
The zaniness and the storyline are expanded by the presence of Flanagan's equally self-deluded Sheryl, who has her own financial and supposed romantic claim on now-hapless Nate. This trio of thesps, all veterans of previous Tanner fare, burrow outrageously into the ongoing self-saving confrontations, the comical but searing humiliations and petty victories inherent in all of Tanner's work.
Tanner's latest legit outing offers an uproarious and compelling glimpse at characters trapped within the inequitable reality of their lost lives and hopeless dreams. Kudos to co-producer Gary Guidinger for the nicely detailed bungalow setting and to Kristina Hoffman's thematically enhancing sounds.
Review by Julio Martinez
In Justin Tanner's 60-minute non-stop laugh-a-thon, Ginny (Laurie Metcalf), a community theatre actress, pours her legacy into the reluctant hands of voice coach Nate (French Stewart), determined, in the old show biz cliché, to "go out a chorus girl and come back a star!" Nate tries to decline in this world premiere at the Zephyr Theatre but tripling his fee is an offer he can't refuse.
Metcalf, in real life a good singer, puts the awe back in awful in her renditions.
The ending is too funny to spoil and comes long before we're tired of the pleasures of Bart de Lorenzo's daffy production deftly embodied by this cast.
Metcalf has the expressive face of a great clown and this role gives her a chance to show what she can do. Steely determination, vulnerability and obsession characterize every hungry actress you ever knew but this one is riveting. Stewart holds his own, not just as a foil for this manic woman, but as a character whose lack of character emerges with devastating finesse as the hour winds down. Flanagan takes a small part and not only fiercely holds the stage but pummels it whenever she gets the chance.
The classic showtunes between scenes, a sound design credited to Kristian Hoffman, are delicious, especially the last. This little jewel is one of the best Tanners yet, for anybody who loves actors, their coaches and laughter.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock
A comic gem in every department from Justin Tanner and company.
Local playwright Justin Tanner has written zany plays for more than 20 years ("Pot Mom," "Barbie and Ken at Home"), but in his latest excursion into everyday insanity, Tanner has outdone himself. "Voice Lessons" is about as funny as any play has a right to be, and in Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart and Maile Flanagan, Tanner and co-director Bart DeLorenzo have found the ideal cast to carry out the play's devilish intentions.
Metcalf makes the part entirely her own, investing Ginny with so many novel inflections of weirdness it's hard not to sympathize with her, sharp elbows and all. Stewart is the perfect foil; he looks as if he's smoking a pipe even when he's not, and his pleasantly smug countenance registers every new emotion as though he's secretly sucking on a forbidden lozenge.
Adding to the merriment is Flanagan as Sheryl, Nate's main squeeze, who surfaces near the end of the play to add another dimension of strangeness to the evening.
Review by Jay Reiner
This debuting comedy by Justin Tanner -- his funniest in years -- feels tailor-made for three veteran actors (Metcalf, French Stewart, Maile Flanagan)
Metcalf is a comedic force of nature here. There's method in her madness, as she expertly sidesteps overkill, anchoring Ginny's madcap demeanor with the impression we've known people like her. The gifted Stewart provides a perfect foil.
Flanagan, who nails Tanner's delectable zingers with clockwork precision, is the third spoke who keeps the comic wheel spinning in championship form.
Reviewed by Les Spindle
Now Casting - Actor's Ink Publication
Director/Writer Justin Tanner’s less than 60-minute, no intermission, production is a “lesson” in good theatre: great writing, entertaining storyline, and superb characters.
Virginia/Ginny (Laurie Metcalf - Roseanne) is a small town, washed up, community theatre actress embarking on a musical comeback.
Review by Conrad "Angel" Corral
No one writes comedy quite like Justin Tanner. Wacky? Demented? Bizarre? Over the top? Maybe even brilliant? The answer is all of the above, and never has this been clearer than in the hour of inspired lunacy that is Voice Lessons. Laurie Metcalf’s whirlwind of a performance here is proof as to why Tanner keeps writing for her. She listens, she reacts, she doesn’t miss a beat. Her moods can turn on a dime. She is a force of nature. She is downright brilliant. A surprising French Stewart does restrained, subtle, and even touching work here and his very real performance keeps the show firmly grounded. Maile Flanagan is a wild and wacky fireball of energy. Tanner has chosen as his co-director the versatile Bart DeLorenzo, who proves himself adept at comedy. Voice Lessons is an outrageously satisfying hour of nonstop laughter and insanity.
Reviewed by Steven Stanley
WILL CALL . ORG
This trio does a marvelous job, has us in the palms of their hands throughout the short, intermission-less play and leaves us wanting more.
Under the co-direction of the playwright and Bart de Lorenzo, the action never slows down. A dozen or so scenes unfold in rapid succession, the dialogue peppered with "Tannerisms". An evening at the theatre doesn't get more entertaining than this.
Review by Ingrid Willmot
The Ticket Stub
Where else but Los Angeles can you see three major comedic/acting geniuses on a small intimate theater stage performing a world premier play by Los Angeles's own playwriting voice, Justin Tanner?
Tanner explores themes he loves, only this time the vehicle is a voice lesson between an overwhelmed and depressive singing teacher (French Stewart) and a typically deluded wannabe star singer (Laurie Metcalf). This short one act (it goes by too fast) is filled with surprising turns. Maile Flanagan plays Sheryl with her powerful and wild comic imprint. The play is absurdist yet with a powerful ring of the reality of individual fantasy and relationship breakdowns and nightmares. Don't miss the opportunity to take in this theater feast.
Herb Goldberg for THE TICKET STUB