Toast of the Town at Factory Theater
Factory Theater. By Scott OKen and
Ernie Deak. Dir. Nick Digilio. With ensemble cast. 1hr 20mins;
Scott OKen and Ernie Deak’s high-energy farce, first produced by the Factory Theater in 2005, works its comic chops on a number of levels. Most straightforwardly, it’s an affectionately juvenile spoof of Chicago’s theater scene, with playwright Goldie McJohn (Timothy C. Amos) struggling to break through from modest successes at small theaters and into more prestigious institutions like the Lawdy Mama Theatre Company (chief selling point: “It’s by the lake!”). With his wife soon to give birth to their first child, Goldie’s about to give up showbiz when Lawdy Mama’s high and mighty (or just plain high) bigwigs Chief Floyd Rose (Dennis Schnell) and Commissioner Thurston deBladderhorn (Anthony Tournis) decide to give him a slot in their season. High jinks involving nutty actors, eccentric directors, douche bag day-job managers and tall- pouring theater bars ensue, with some solid tweaks of establishment attitudes (“Theater has no place for new talent!”) and of the city’s critical phalanx.
But Toast of the Town is equally an
homage to old-school comedy, with
tips of the hat to fast-talking funnymen
from the Marx Brothers to Benny Hill.
Exaggerated double takes and wacky
props abound; apropos of nothing,
Deak strolls through a few times
playing Bob Hope playing himself.
(Yes, Hope was already dead at the
time of the show’s first run.) Deak,
OKen and director Nick Digilio pack
the runway so tight that not
everything can land, and not all of the
18 cast members can keep up the pace
without stumbling. But a few—Laura
McKenzie’s deranged director, Tony
Kaehny’s impossibly gay rival
playwright and Chas Vrba as his
jumpsuited henchman—more than
deserve a toast.