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Review: Great acting in Off Broadstreet’s new romantic comedy

By Hindi Greenberg
Special to Prospector
The two-person play opening took place on the heels of the 33rd anniversary of Jan Kopp and John Driscoll’s launching of the cabaret style theatre that has become a staple in Nevada County.
Photo by Heidi Grass

“It Had to Be You,” currently showing at Off Broadstreet, isn’t the music cabaret venue’s usual fare. This play hasn’t more than a few minutes of incidental singing, no dancing and is instead a romantic comedy starring two exceptional actors who scream, laugh, cry, nag and throw humorous comments at each other while demonstrating their extremely worthy acting chops.

Written by the married writing/acting team of Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, who first starred in this play in New York in 1982, it is said to be partly autobiographical. The lead female, Theda Blau, is a failed actress, who wants a man to help with her issues (in that, the play is definitely 80s-dated), which include writing her unfinished play. The performance starts with Theda’s monologue, where she stands stage front and advises us that she’s met and will have the man of her dreams and is going to show us how it happened. She then steps back and into an audition situation for which she is totally unprepared, rambling on and making one funny gaffe after another, but subsequently meets Vito Pignoli, a successful commercial advertising producer, and decides that he is THE ONE.

The remainder of the play takes place in Theda’s apartment on Christmas eve, after the failed audition. Through continual cajoling and her actions, Theda aims to get Vito both to fall in love with her and to help her rework the play she’s written. She eventually seduces Vito, but when he later attempts to leave, he slips on the stairs and hurts his back, so he returns to her apartment. Then a heavy snowfall, with no limousines available, traps him there for the night. After many funny, outrageous and even groan-worthy machinations, Theda manages to convince Vito to be her partner both on the page and off.



Even though “It Had to Be You” is quite over-the-top and the storyline somewhat unbelievable, that doesn’t preclude this production from also being laugh-out-loud funny and delightful. And that’s because the two leads are such amazing performers that they make the humor funnier and the pathos more touching. Tina Marie Kelley as Theda is a whirlwind, articulating literally hundreds of words a minute and yet having full control of her body language and facial expressions. Micah Cone as Vito is able to convey his every emotion through both tone and movement. Both of them have impeccable comic timing. And, perhaps, because in real life they are a newly married couple, they connect on-stage as well as they obviously do off-stage. The cast is rounded out by the mellifluous voice of Ken Miele as the unseen person conducting Theda’s unsuccessful audition.

Director John Driscoll is the co-owner of Off Broadstreet. He previously directed this same play years ago and his deft hand shows in how he keeps the action flowing and interesting. The set design by J. Ambrose is visually wonderful, as are the luxuriant costumes and props by Jan Kopp (co-owner of Off Broadstreet who, herself, performed as Theda years ago for Off Broadstreet).



This play is a well-done, outrageous escape of unapologetic fun and amusing warmth, creating a terrific theater experience. It runs at Off Broadstreet in Nevada City through October 22.

Hindi Greenberg is glad to see Off Broadstreet bringing in a variety of entertainment—both their usual musical, tuneful, fun fare and other, less traditional programs. After 33 years, they are still bringing joy to the community.


 


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