Curtains impresses with drama, humor

LIEUTENANT FRANK CIOFFI (ERIC SHOVAH) INTERRUPTS the cast of Robbin’ Hood as they mourn the death of lead actress Jessica Crenshaw (Emily Lambert ’14) with the song “The Woman’s Dead.”

Starting Friday, April 19, the RPI Players will present their final production of the year: Curtains. Based on the book and concept by Peter Stone, Curtains tells the story of a hassled theater troop and production staff attempting to rescue their play, Robbin’ Hood of the Old West, from bad acting, bad attitudes, bad reviews, and bad luck, as the group quickly finds they are plagued by a serial killer.

I was privileged to attend one of the Players’ tech rehearsals, and if it was any indication, the show will be great. Despite a few minor hiccups, such as some of the cast stumbling over a few of their lines, the rehearsal was quite a solid performance, and I can only assume that the real thing will be even better. Curtains opens with the final scene of Robbin’ Hood, featuring Emily Lambert ’14 as Jessica Crenshaw, incompetent actress and star of the show. Lambert’s portrayal of Crenshaw was ironically spot-on, as well as humorous (“I was distracted by some guy waving his arms at me!” “That was the conductor!”). Crenshaw’s murder during the cast bows sets a serious tone for the rest of the play, but similar funny moments sprinkled throughout lighten the mood.

Other notable performances included Emily Fernandes ’13 as Georgia Hendricks and Eric Shovah as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Hendricks, the play’s lyricist, is chosen to replace Crenshaw as the lead actress, despite not having taken the stage in years. Fernandes excellently pulls off the character’s initial nervousness at suddenly acquiring the starring role, as well as her transition to being comfortable and confident in her role by the play’s end. Shovah, meanwhile, gave—in my opinion—the best performance in the show, making Cioffi, the officer investigating the murders, my favorite character. I was quite amused by his goofy yet competent demeanor, as well as the fact that Cioffi’s love of the stage has him getting perhaps too involved in the attempts to fix the production, to the point of giving orders and making suggestions to the various actors and even the director. At times, I even forgot he was not actually part of the company! Hendricks and Cioffi both weave romantic threads into their acting as well, as both characters’ love lives are subplots of the play. Hendricks must deal with being partnered with her ex-lover, the play’s songwriter, Aaron Fox (played by Evan Plunkett ’14), and Cioffi quickly finds himself falling for actress Niki Harris (Casey Adam ’15)—feelings which are reciprocated.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Curtains. The Players really give their all when on stage, even in rehearsals, and it certainly came through in a stellar performance. (They also know how to play to their audience—I quite enjoyed that the scene with newspaper reviews featured Poly issues as props.) The play will be shown starting this Friday, April 19, at 8 pm, as well as on April 20, 25, 26, and 27 at the same time, and on April 21 at 2 pm.