This past weekend I was given the opportunity to see Little Lake Theatre’s newest production, The Best of Everything which is running through June 13. I was excited to see Little Lake’s new Artistic Director’s debut, and how the new production team has taken to the space. I was particularly interested in understanding how Roxy MtJoy was going to transition Little Lake from the legacy created by the Disney family. However, if Thursday’s opening night performance of Julie Kramer’s area premier is any insight into the future, MtJoy and her production team have some work cut out to get back to the high production value and attention to detail that Little Lake audiences have grown accustomed to over the last sixty six years.
Julie Kramer adapts The Best of Everything from a book by Rona Jaffe, and details the lives of New York publishing secretaries in the 1950s. Billed as ‘Mad Men meets Mayhem,’ Kramer’s script tries to demonstrate the struggles of the modern working woman, but just falls flat. MtJoy directs a truly uneven script (although it does have a few great moments) that labors to float between the dramatic and the comedic. This lack of balance never really allows the audience is to decide how it feels about the characters.
The true stand out of the show is the portrayal of May Agnes Russo by local actress Teresa Madden Harrold in her Little Lake debut. She was one of the few actors that understood the idiosyncrasies of the script, and was able to demonstrate the efforts a working woman must fight with—love, money, and careers. There were also some nice moments out of Jane Joseph, who played the lead character of Caroline Bender. We also get a lot of great comedic relief from Mary Brodland as the small town girl in a big city, April Morrison. The rest of the cast struggled with bringing one note characters to life.
Where this production was truly unsuccessful was its technical elements. Little Lake was never known for their over the top tech, but previous Lake designers were able to create a nuanced show that blended seamlessly with the actors on stage. The stage was always subtly decorated to give the illusion of a fully realized set but this weekend’s show was quite the opposite. The set was sparse, just three bland metal desks and a couple of standard metal filing cabinets and all the props were brought on during excruciatingly long scene changes. Although the music choices were perfect for the ambiance of the scenes, it would have been great for the music to fade in and out and not just start and stop abruptly. And then we have to discuss the lights—they were abrupt, jarring, and sometimes were not even doing their most basic job of lighting the actors.
As with any new position, there is always a learning curve and I think that MtJoy has a bit of growing pains to work out in the next few months. She needs to turn around the struggles of this production and bring back the fully realized productions and that ever so important attention to the smallest details that Little Lake has been doing for the last sixty-six years.
The Best of Everything runs through June 13, with all performances at 8PM with the exception of the Sunday matinee on June 7 at 2PM. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for children and can be purchased online at littlelake.org or by calling 724-745-6300.
Thanks to Little Lake Theatre Company for two complimentary press tickets for Thursday’s opening night performance.
Performance Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015