MERELY PLAYERS

fjfj For pure, silly fun at the Hollywood Fringe (and a chance to be a star for a night), you can’t beat Merely Players, the latest from Color & Light Theatre Ensemble, the folks who brought you Giraffenstein and The Pokémusical.

Imagine a community theater company so bad it makes Waiting For Guffman’s troupe of amateurs seem positively professional by comparison and you’ll have some idea of the level of “talent” imagined by book writer James Penca and composer-lyricist Alex Syiek’s Boyle Community Players, currently auditioning potential cast members Bus Stop: The Musical, a musical about … a bus stop, or rather the assorted locals waiting for public transportation to arrive.

From auditions to rehearsals to Opening Night, Merely Players introduces us to an eclectic mix of zanies including girl-next-door beauty Addison, whose “specialty” is mime; Hunter, a gayer-than-gay triple-threat inexplicably cast as a macho Mexican; Delaney, whose Elvis-esque sex-appeal has got the show’s female director “All Shook Up,” and Glen, a suburban African-American who must “play ghetto” if he wants to get cast.

Oh, and of the three audience members called up to audition, two will actually join the cast and remain onstage pretty much throughout.

Under Joanna Syiek’s bubbly direction, Emily Arkuss, Adam Ballard, Katie DeShan, Sara Guarnieri, Ari Gwasdoff, Josh Hillinger, Joseph McMahon, Nick Pavelich, Courtney Reed, Seth Salsbury, Kelley Schulte, and Caleb Mills Stewart do all-around sparkling work, with special snaps for Salsbury’s Broadway pipes, and oodles of kudos to ace musical director Jennifer Lin, who not only tickles the ivory but plays a dryly sarcastic “Jen.”

Songs are funny and catchy, wild-and-crazy characters are straight (or not so straight) out of an actual Max Ginsburg painting, choreography by director Syiek is infectiously fun, and with Corwin Evans’ sound design and Brandon Baruch’s lighting adding a professional sheen to the show’s bare stage, Merely Players ends up an absolute delight.

Whether you’ve ever done community theater or never trod the boards in your life, you will love Merely Players. And you might even buy a ticket to go back. I have, with fingers crossed that when I do, they pick me to wait at the Bus Stop.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2167

–Steven Stanley
June 13, 2105