Richard Baird (forefront) in "At This Evening's Performance." Photo by Aaron Rumley
Right off the bat, playwright Nagle Jackson should have second-guessed himself when he titled his ‘80s comedy At This Evening’s Performance. It’s not what you’d call a grabber. Alas, neither is the play itself, which under the direction of Andrew Barnicle closes North Coast Repertory Theatre’s 35th season. There is certainly potential for hilarity in the set-up: a contentious theater troupe in the mythical European nation of Strevia is forced to perform “the classics” at the behest of the oppressive party in political power. Toss in the threat of the assassination of someone in the cast, and you’re all set, right? But the guffaws and gesticulations exhaust themselves early in the going, and we’re left with what feels like a script Mel Brooks might have rejected as not nearly clever enough. Within the dutiful seven-person ensemble, only Richard Baird as a scowling stage manager fits into the spirit of what playwright Jackson apparently intended: physical, unadulterated farce. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 7/26/17)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.