Two very different comedies are nearing the end of their runs on North Bay stages and both are worth catching if you can. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater is staging the popular musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors while Sebastopol’s Main Stage West is presenting Annie Baker’s Body Awareness. Both shows run through September 22.
Baker’s play is set in the fictional Shirley, Vermont, where Shirley State College psychology professor Phyllis (Lydia Revelos) is busy planning for her campus’s “Body Awareness Week” (formerly “Eating Disorders Week”) while dealing with the distractions caused by her partner Joyce (Nancy Prebilich) and Joyce’s difficult son Jared (Elijah Pinkham). Phyllis and Joyce think Jared shows all the signs of an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome while Jared insists he does not.
Their home is thrown into further turmoil with the arrival of Frank (Zachery Tendick), a photographer who specializes in nude photography of women and whose work will be on display at the college, much to Phyllis’s consternation. Joyce, however, is intrigued by Frank and may go so far as to become one of his subjects.
Jared, looking to prove to his mothers that he is not on the spectrum, seeks Frank’s advice on how to get a girlfriend – because people with Asperger’s do not have girlfriends. Things do not go well.
The humor in the show – and there’s a lot – derives from the awareness that the characters gain about themselves and their relationships through the introduction of an outside force.
Directors John Shillington and Janine Sternlieb have cast the show well, with Pinkham again demonstrating why he’s one of the most interesting actors around. Revelos and Prebilich make for a believable couple and Revelos again exhibits a fine flair for comedy. Tendick, in what is apparently his first acting gig, does alright though his lack of stage experience is reflected in a lack of depth in the character. I wanted to see more of what attracted Joyce and repulsed Phyllis. As the force of change in the lives of the characters, I think the character needed to better embody that force.
Despite its subject matter, Body Awareness is a rather gentle comedy. Baker’s affection for her characters shows, as will yours should you decide to attend.
Seats may be scarce for closing weekend, but you can’t go wrong seeing either show.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★
‘Body Awareness’ runs through September 22 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thu–Sat, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. $15–$30. 707.823.0177. mainstagewest.com
Photos by Eric Chazankin
Click HERE for the review of Little Shop of Horrors.