Annie Sherman in the Conejo Players Theatre’s latest production ‘Follies’
Conejo Players Theatre
351 W. Moorpark Rd, Thousand Oaks CA
Playing thru December 13, 2015
Whatever show you slip in to see, in any theatre or any particular part of the world, the chances are pretty good you’re only seeing half the story. For behind all the curtains and scrims, make-up and costumes, there’s often something else going on between performers. It may be the bond actors form under pressure – the skipped meals, auditions made and roles missed, and always the dreams of success off in the distance. Sometimes, however, that bond turns romantic.
We call it showmance.
The showmance often blooms at the start of the production and winds down by closing night. Sometimes, however, as is the case of Ben and Sally (Richard Osborne and Autumn Bodily), like a love of the theatre, it’s a flame that never totally dies out. The real relationships they’ve maintained throughout their lives are thin substitutes for the one romantic lead they missed and have never really recovered from.
When the curtain rises on the Conejo Players latest production, “Follies,” the Harlequin masks look down on Rick Steinberg’s dilapidated set of the old Weissman Theatre, a building whose years of pure joy have fallen into disrepair. But the good times are going to be had once more as Dimitri (John Barker) assembles the old gang for a final night together.
Director Arryck Adams does well to present each character in a similarly dual light. When the aged version of Solange (Wendy Babb) sings her ode to Paris, it is with her younger counterpart (Renee Delgado) spotted in perfect sync upstage. When local theatre veteran Richard Osborn sings about ‘The Road You Didn’t Take,’ it is with lament about the opportunities caught, cherished, and yet still with the lingering thought: ‘what if..?’ And though Osborn’s Benjamin Stone has achieved success and notoriety, he’s still left to wonder about ‘lives I’ll never lead.’
The one road Stone didn’t take was a lifelong showmance with Sally (Autumn Bodily). Bodily’s vocal range is one of the highlights of ‘Follies,’ and throughout we feel her pining beside the flame she’s kept for Ben all these years. The tune that has held her marriage together with husband Buddy (Andy Brasted) has always been played as a second fiddle; it’s just something to whistle until the full symphony that she believes could be life with Ben finally cues and life begins. Buddy curses his bad luck, having married a wonderful woman who doesn’t love him.
Similarly, Ben’s wife Phyllis (Dana Kolb) is a bombshell who doesn’t get the love she deserves from Ben because he’s in love with, well, nobody. But could she leave “the quips with a sting, jokes with a sneer, passionless lovemaking once a year?” Yes, she could. But will she?
And yet the one character who never tied down to any particular showmance is Carlotta, played with a keen sense of independence by Kathleen Silverman. In her number ‘I’m Still Here,’ Silverman recants the trials of a life in the theatre, a path she’ll keep walking without regret. When Ben tries to make a move on her she lets him know she liked him once, but now she likes someone else. And “next year I’ll like some other guy.” Unlike Sally, whose life is dictated by the love that never was, Carlotta’s is a love that will march on, stage after stage.
The first act comes in just under two hours, then it’s a race to the finish with a flurry of numbers and a visual parade of knock-your-eyes out costuming by Beth Glasner and Elena Mills. There’s one last dramatic scene between Ben and Sally, each nearing a breakdown. Ben is buckling under the pressure of performance and forgetting lines, while Sally realizes that she’s nothing now but forty-nine years old and alone. The warmth of their showmance may have once been enough, but on this final night in the old theatre, the warm memory of their time together will have to carry them through.
Thru December 13, 2015
Conejo Players Theatre
351 W. Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, CA
Tickets: 805-495-3715 or online at:
Tickets: $20 adult, $18 senior/student/military