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Local theaters travel through time

Clague Playhouse sees the future in ‘The Psychic’ while Huntington Playhouse looks back with ‘Swinging on a Star’

Laughs are in the future for the audience at ‘The Psychic’

At Clague Playhouse, the comedy “The Psychic” is a hugely successful endeavor. Adam Webster is a starving writer living in the basement of a run-down New York building. To make a few bucks, he puts out a crayon sign offering himself as a psychic reader. His first customer is Laura Benson, a smart and sassy  woman who thinks her husband may be out to murder her. Webster does his best with her, but may also be a bit attracted to her. Imagine his surprise when his next “client” is Laura’s husband, Roy. Also in the plot are a woman of loose morals, a gangster named Johnny Bubbles and a detective of dubious ability.

When Clague Playhouse assembles a production that is firing on all cylinders, the result is almost overwhelming. Director Skip Corris has an ideal cast. I don’t say it often, but each of the six performers is a perfect match for their role. Jeremy Jenkins is an affable but frustrated writer, doing whatever it takes to finish and sell his novel. Jenny Erbs gives an edge of mystery to Laura, as well as a sexy appeal. As husband Roy, Tim Walsh is a character who seems both capable of murder and of being murdered himself. The audience does not see enough of Marylee Gotch as Rita – a woman on the make. Dennis Runkle may be in his ultimate role as a comedic gangster in the perfect suit. Kudos to costume designer Justin Bilewicz. Helping to complicate the script rather than unravel it is Neil Donnelly as detective Norris Coslow.

I saw a preview performance of “The Psychic” through the courtesy of director. Characterization, timing and interpretation were all humming in perfect harmony in this show. Writer Sam Bobrick made his name with many TV series you’ve seen in the past. In this script he relies on a device that you may guess in advance if you remember a lot of the “Twilight Zone” episodes. Still, “The Psychic” delivers a full evening of solid entertainment, and I had a blast watching it. The show runs weekends through Oct. 6.

Huntington celebrates the music and times of Johnny Burke

In Bay Village, Huntington Playhouse has a musical revue based on the music of Johnny Burke. In the 1930s and 1940s, the prolific Burke wrote the lyrics to dozens of songs, popularized by the musical stars of the era. “Swinging on a Star” is both the title of one of his best-known songs, and of this show. Director Ian Atwood has a cast of four who take the audience from a speakeasy, through the Depression, on a radio show, and to a World War II USO show. And that’s just the first act.

Audience members will remember “Pennies From Heaven,” one of Burke’s best, and “Thank Your Lucky Stars and Stripes” in the USO show. Atwood has a large screen as part of the set, which projects images of Bob Hope entertaining the troops through this segment.

The second act of the show takes the audience members to a ballroom, recalling the Hope-Crosby-Lamour “road pictures,” and ends in a supper club. The audience enjoyed hearing quotes from popular singers of the era and guessing their identity through the projected images.

The cast of Alice Fogal, Anthony Heffner, Lynn Miller-Penegor and Carleigh Spence is augmented by musical director Lawrence Wallace, playing, conducting and singing from the on-stage piano. “Swinging on a Star” has limited dialogue, giving the cast a chance to do what it does best, which is sing. Gilgamesh Taggett’s sound design gets the music to our ears with power and clarity. The best audience for “Swinging on a Star” are those who remember the era, or learned of it through their parents. Younger people, too, would benefit from this lively tour through America’s rich musical history. “Swinging on a Star” runs weekends through Oct. 13.

Lawrence Wallace and Carleigh Spence are in the cast of "Swinging on a Star" at Huntington Playhouse. (Photo courtesy of Huntington Playhouse)

 

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