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A CurtainUp Review
Game Show

Michael McGrath
(Photo: Joan Marcus )
Buying a ticket to Game Show, definitely not the way to win a million dollars. What your $49.50 will give you (yes, Virginia, this is priced like "real" theater), especially If you nab an aisle seat, is a fair shot at going home with an imprinted T-shirt or a signed color photo of show host Troy Richards (Michael McGrath). Maybe, if you wave your hand high and hard enough, you'll get to test your trivia IQ against three other plugged from the audience contestants and win a somewhat grander prize (airline tickets, a DVD Player, TV or digital camera).

Whether you're chosen for the pre-show cameo quizzes of randomly selected audience members or for the several rounds of the "live" Game Show, you will be video taped live so that can see yourself on the cameras positioned at the sides and rear of the stage. Interactivity that embraces the entire audience of the 300-seat house is very much the name of this game, so you might want to comb your hair and wear something photogenic in order to enjoy these filmed glimpses of yourself.

For all the applauding, and yelling (encouraged by prompts from an applause box and the show's staff), Game Show is a carefully staged affair. The seven cast members are unquestionably the professionals in charge. The participating audience members are bit players, easily replaced from performance to performance.

The artful set by James Youmans supports the blend of replicating the atmosphere of the live broadcast of a game show and the backstage shenanigans which give Game Show its credentials as a comedy play. The stage has podiums for four contestants and is flanked by an open area for the studio crew and an elevated enclosed area which periodically opens up for another kind of game to be played out in Ellen (Cheryl Stern), the producer's office.

The actors skillfully navigate their way through the various areas of the set as well as through the aisles of the theater. Michael McGrath, a charming Regis dress-alike, makes the fast-on-the-draw interplay with the contestants seem as easy as pouring a glass of water. Jeb Brown is fast, funny and brash as Steve Fox, the ambitious comic warm-up man. Cheryl Stern is engagingly over the top as the scheming Ellen, her killer instinct embodied in a blood-red leather suit (courtesy of costume designer Theresa Squire). Not to be overlooked is Dana Lynn Mauro who makes a surprise appearance as a character named Erica Singer.

Given the familiarity and shallow depth of the plot within the game show, Mark Waldrop's otherwise sharp direction would have been even sharper if some of the backstage business and perhaps one round of contestants had trimmed Game Show by fifteen minutes.

While neither this or the other new downtown interactive show, Life Game, (see link below) do much to raise anyone's cultural IQ, they are interesting for their differences. While the actors at the Jane Street Theater follow a fairly standard interview script, they rely on a single non-professional guest to feed the improvisational acting out of scenes from that guest's life story. Life Game is thus a much more risky sort of improv since a good guest can steal the show and a dull one can sink it like the proverbial lead balloon. By contrast, Game Show, besides being a much noisier, whoop-it-up experience, is a play (well, sort of) built around an interactive, improv concept. A particularly lively participant can contribute to the fun and games spirit (e.g., the college teacher who almost exploded with joy when she won at the performance I attended), but a dull one can't really ruin the show. On the other hand, to live up to the tag on the program cover -- the comedy you play -- Game Show needs not one but 300 noisily enthusiastic, eager to be part of the game guests. If the packed, enthusiastic and predominant young house at the preview I attended is any indication, that may not be a problem.

Life Game -- the show's web sit where you'll find a list of grand prize winners (names, where they're from, what they do and date they participated); directions for getting to theater; special prize registration forms; and lots of color photos from the show. One of nicest show websites around!

by Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton
Directed by Mark Waldrop
Cast: Joel Blum, Jeb Brown, Jeremy Ellison Gladstone, Dana Lynn Mauro, Michael McGrath, Cheryl Stern, Brandon Williams
Set Design: James Youmans
Lighting Design: Jeffrey S. Koger
Costume Design: Theresa Squire
Sound Design: One Dream Sound, Kurt B. Kellenberger
Theme Song and incidental music: Bob Walton
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, without intermission
45 Bleeker, 45 Bleeker St. (at Lafayette) 307-4100
Tues-Fri 8pm; Satrday 7 & 10pm; Sunday 3 and 7 pm
Performances from 10/10/2000; opening 10/25/2000
Tickets: $49.50; $15 - student rush

Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 10/19 performance
©Copyright 2000, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
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