Sometimes theatre is just about having a good night out. After all – who really is up for emotional or intellectual heavy lifting on a Wednesday night? This is where The Understudy fits the bill. Light, entertaining, and laugh-aloud funny, it diverts and charms – which makes it perfect for a mid-week night out.
Based on the press release, I was prepared to dislike this piece, turning as it does on theatre. As much as I love the self-referential quality of theatre about theatre and being part of the in-joke, such pieces often get repetitive. Not so with The Understudy, which turns a story about producing a Kafka tale into a light comedy.
Part of this magic is due to Gabriel Marin. Marin plays the understudy, who lucked into his role through a tortured series of connections. As he did when he played Destry in Wirehead, he creates a character that’s a bit of a nebbish, the perennial loser whose efforts are charming in their sincerity. This role might be so effective because it goes to so many of us on our better days.
Paired off with Marin, is Craig Marker, who played Marin’s cubicle mate in the aforementioned Wirehead. Marker plays an action hero who starred in a recent picture that grossed sixty seven million – a fact we’re told even more frequently than we were told about John Kerry’s gold metals.
Playing opposite Marin and Marker is Jessica Wortham, as the stage manager Roxanne. Easily the most histrionic stage manager I’ve ever seen, she reminds the audience that the one person who’s supposed to keep a cool head is the stage manager. Her running dialogue with the stoned-out light booth operator, Laura brings on one laugh after another.
The San Jose Rep may be the underrated gem in south bay theatre. The upcoming 2012-2013 season presents a series of six quirky studies involving everything from Indian call centers (Disconnect), atheists and actors (Next Fall) to Freud (Freud’s Last Session). In addition to these is their traditional Christmas Carol, and the blockbuster Next to Normal. San Jose Rep may be the place to be in the South Bay in the coming year.