OK, so last weekend, I opened in the world premiere production of Colin Speer Crowley’s Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room. The play revolves around the Republican National Convention of 1920 that saw the nomination of Warren G. Harding after 9 contentious ballots. I play Harry Daugherty, Harding’s campaign manager.
The playwright flew out last weekend to catch the opening three performances (not that THAT was pressure or anything…). It went really well. Fairly good-sized crowds (considering the play has no title recognition), and solid responses.
More importantly, I think we did Crowley’s script justice. He seemed fairly pleased. He’s written on his website:
I’ve spent the past few days having a wonderful time in Ventura County, California watching the premiere of my play “Fifteen Men at a Smoke-Filled Room” at Elite Theatre Company!
I was extremely impressed by the savvy, spot-on directing of Angela DiCecco, the lush, well-decorated, forest green set, and the extremely impressive acting of the actors and actresses. Jill Dolan was the best Florence Harding I have ever seen (and this after seeing the role performed by Equity actresses) and Bill Walthall played Harding’s campaign manager Harry Daugherty very smoothly (ditto for Sean Love Mason’s understated role as George Harvey). Scott Blanchard and Reign Lewis were very well-paired as Warren G. Harding and his mistress, Nan Britton (Scott did a great job making Harding a dynamic figure, zipping around the stage with abandon – a great counterweight to Harding’s tendency to mope) and Eric McGowan had a great time with the Waiter role, which was tweaked a bit and given a cleverly comedic flair.
I’m especially pleased by the depth that Angela and the actors brought to the show. The piece is very character-driven, very dense, and is none-too-easy to perform. Despite this, the play reached several moments of definite emotional intensity – especially in the second act. I had quite a few theater-goers comment that they found the piece touching and poignant and felt the tragedy at the heart of the play’s storyline. Jill Dolan deserves a special call-out for being able to kill someone with a single glance and Angela’s deft use of prolonged pauses (you could hear a pin drop at times) was extremely effective at emphasizing the high drama. Overall, the play seemed to flow effortlessly, and the energy and the enthusiasm of the actors seemed to get better every performance for which I was in attendance (August 31, September 1, and September 2).
A special shout-out goes to Artistic Director L. J. Stevens and Production Manager Stephanie Rice!
“Fifteen Men” runs for another four weeks, until Saturday, September 30th… check it out!
Needless to say, I concur with that last statement… c’mon out and check us out!