STYLIZED COMEDY ON A SURREAL SET
You know this is the quintessential show where anything can happen in live theatre. – Gail Rastofer
There is a story being told on stage, but that is just one component of a big picture that is going on around you.
“Sarasota is that community where you rely on your friends to tell you what’s good and what’s not good.” – Susan Yanetti
Guess what – I’m that friend who is telling you that if you don’t hurry and get your tickets, you will have missed one of the best plays of the season. You’ll laugh so hard you’ll need to bring tissues to wipe away those hysterical tears! What more need I say?
I saw this play opening night, yes… I am a little behind in reviewing this play, but believe me this play won’t disappoint. I let the people of the theatre tell the story through my curiosity. I believe you learn more by their words than anything I can actually write.
This article is not about the play – go see it, I’m telling you! It’s about the actors in the play and how they see us and the role we have in their world, it’s about the patrons who decide to sponsor students and what motivates them to do so, it’s about the stunning set design that sets the stage and it’s about the beautiful theatre goers and their honesty towards the Asolo and the actors, it’s about the usher who’s been with the theater so long he can’t remember if it’s five or six years. Listening to these people speak with such passion towards their roles in this world is why I absolutely love speaking to them and letting you in on their amazing stories.
Greg Leaming did a fantastic job at directing this play considering all the things that happen at once. What I can tell you about the play, if you played the game clue, watched Sherlock Holmes and like a good murder mystery then this play is for you. You will be entertained from beginning to end and it will keep you guessing all while laughing and trying to figure out, who done it!
I caught up with the leading man now in his seventh season at the Asolo, after the play to see what kind of insight he can lend me. He has a voice that is so enjoyable to listen to.
Bryan Torfeh plays the role of William Gillette
Your part was amazing and funny. I really enjoyed the lightness of the play. I spoke to a couple of audience members and they were unsure when to laugh because everything is so dramatic typically in the theatre’s now. Was there anything that stood out to you from the perspective of the audience reaction?
Why yes, there actually was. The first five or eight minutes the audience was that opening night rowdy had a few drinks and ready to laugh at everything. Then I thought that’s normal, this is how it’s going to go. Then everyone started tuning in and listening about eight minutes in, which was fantastic because I wasn’t really expecting it. I think of it as we’re doing a comedy here, but of course there is a bit of a mystery going on. People are listening and trying to pick up the clues and thinking that’s what it is. It’s kind of magical to hear people listen like that and the great thing is the mix of funny laughs and recognition laughs. You have moments where they got a point or they got something and there’s a little laugh because of the satisfaction of getting that point. It’s quite nice.
What is it like to work on a set that is so beautifully designed?
Judy is one of the most amazing designers. Everything she turns up is so wonderful. It facilitates what we’re doing, it tells half the story right there. The first day we set foot on it, we see opportunities I can use this and this, it’s pretty great.
How do you prepare for your role?
I read the play a lot. I read things that it reminds me of like The Thin Man movies and stories about the Barrymore’s. I drink in that 1930’s ambiance.
After this evening’s performance, will you change much in your role?
There will be little changes; I need to get the Sherlock Holmes robe on quicker.
Gail Rastorfer plays Daria, she made me cry with laughter I just had to find her after the show and get details. That’s the beauty of opening night, after the play the actors come out and play with us.
Gail Rastorfer plays the role of Daria Chase
Your role stole the show, in my opinion. You had quick wit and humor.
Tell me about your character and how you get into your role and how you carry it through. You are the show!
I’m a dead body in the show (she giggles). I think Daria is a great character that you love to hate. Everybody wants to love to hate somebody and to be able to laugh at that person, so I take that upon myself to do it. Ken Ludwig’s writing is so wonderful, wouldn’t we all love a comeback like Daria Chases comeback.
What I didn’t realize when I got into the role is how physical it was going to be. That was the challenge for me.
How do you prepare physically for this character?
I started working out everyday. I started doing hard-core cardio everyday. You hear all the screaming and yelling I’m doing, I want to do that healthily and then all that moving, try doing that in high heels, a tight dress and a sequined bolero jacket. I worked really hard with our amazing costume designer Eduardo to let him know, it’s great that it’s beautiful and I’ll destroy it. He said don’t you worry; we will make it like Fort Knox. That’s why it took me so long to get out here tonight; it took me forever to get out of it and stapling that wig to my head so it didn’t fall off…ha!
Is this your first season at The Asolo?
This is my first season. I get five and a half months with them. I’m in two other shows.
What do you think of Sarasota?
I came here from Chicago. I love it! I am blown away by the culture, the art, the music of course the amazing weather. The people here are really intent on nurturing the culture here. As an actor it’s incredibly tantalizing to come down here and go, “Oh I can have culture in this beautiful little enclave of a place and its warm here.”
The entire cast of Clybourne Park was sitting in the mezzanine level watching your show. How does that make you feel?
Some of those people in Clybourne Park are in other shows I am in, they are like cast mates. Spending five and a half months with the same actors it’s really wonderful, it’s a family I feel really supported with them out there. It’s a team effort.
Was there anything that happened within your role in tonight’s performance that surprised you or that was unexpected?
Tonight? No, but last night the sofa almost tipped over with me as the dead body on it. You know when he throws me on the sofa; I’ve got to tell you… you know how they tell you life goes in slow motion at those moments? –it went in slow motion for me and I had a very clear vision, I was limp and I was telling myself stay limp, stay limp… if they don’t catch this in a second I’m going to have to freak out. You know this is the quintessential show where anything can happen in live theatre. You saw what happened to the knife tonight. This show you have to roll with the punches.
What I love about the Asolo’s PR manager is more than her greeting you at the door with a smile, it’s her insight into the play, the people, the actors –she knows everything.
Susan Yanetti – Public Relations Manager (A woman whose role is one of the most important and she does it better than anyone I know)
How did you feel opening night went?
The evening met and exceeded our expectations. We knew it was a beautiful and fun show, but until you do it with a full house you never really know how all the jokes are going to land with people. You may think something’s funny, but you’re not sure everyone else gets the humor or sees it the way you do., but tonight everyone was really into it laughing hysterically, deep belly laughs.
Ken Ludwig is such a master of farce. He is a very popular playwright in this area. He’s a wonderful person. Today he sent the cast well wishes from the road, he’s traveling with his family but took the time to let everyone know that he is thinking about them and that he was wishing them to break a leg with the production. It means alot to us to know that we have the support of the community, the theatre, the playwright and everyone who is behind this show.
How does it make you feel that the cast of Clybourne Park was in the house?
The cast has an interest in what’s going on in the theatre because they understand the high level vibrant work we do. It would be silly not to take advantage of seeing the show. Everyone who works here and is a part of the theatre loves theatre they are a theatre person. The highlight of our social season is the opening of a show. They get dressed up and come out and if they’re not working they are here.
Your theatre wins my vote for best dressed patrons!
How is the show selling?
People will only buy what they know. In two days we had enormous surge. Sarasota is that community where you rely on your friends to tell you what’s good and what’s not good. Everybody goes out and only has so much money to spend; you want to make sure you see the best thing that appeals to you. People will decide for themselves. This show, It’s a high comedy, gorgeous beautiful and very entertaining. It’s a fashion show! These costumes are ‘sick’! I was studying the production photos and the detail on the knife that goes into Daria’s back matches the trim on her bolero jacket – the knife coördinates with the jacket… wow!
Laugh, let loose……
Behind the scenes is where you will find this Victor, he’s kind-of-like the great oz of the Asolo!
Victor Meyrich – Production Manager oversees the technical operations of the entire theatre
Can you tell me about the set design?
We work with really great artists like Eduardo and Judy. It makes our job so much more interesting, challenging and rewarding. This set is unique; we used a bunch of new technology and techniques to accomplish it. For example, the whole set is basically printed in NY and comes down like wall paper. The circular staircase was a bit more complicated.
How long does it take you to build a set like this?
Is it rewarding to watch your work?
Tonight is rewarding, sitting and watching tech rehearsals is a long process, but with everyone here tonight enjoying the show, it’s a lot of fun. We loved the design from when we first saw it. We committed the budget for it because it’s really a show that should be built right.
This man has a familiar face, a permanent smile and is one of the most approachable people you’ll meet; he is certainly the right man for this role. I didn’t have much time between intermissions to talk, but I did learn a little more than I knew before.
Larry Depose – Handsome Usher
I’ve been ushering at the Asolo for about five or six years and rarely have I not seen a good play. The acting is great; the scenery is great, good plays different themes. You can also find Larry ushering at the Van Wezel and the Players Theatre.
The sweetest woman sparkling in grey standing at the end of the table at the post party adorned my attention.
Lillian Richmond – Classy as they come Theatre Patron
One of the better shows as I said to my friends the Reparatory Theatre is fine however, the repetition of the same actors is not very interesting as far as I am concerned, but tonight was one of the better ones.
Because it made you laugh?
Yes, but it was different actors too.
I really enjoyed the Heidi Chronicles. Everyone at this theatre is friendly, if you don’t know them they’re your friend and that’s Sarasota because people come here and everyone says hello which is marvelous.
Are you a resident all year long?
Now I am I was a snow bird. I moved from La Jolla, California to here. I love it here.
Lillian was so kind, her friend came by and she spoke so highly of her – she introduced me to Nancy and now I introduce you. I can only hope to be as beautiful on the inside as Nancy, when I grow up!
Nancy Markel -Friends of Artistic Excellence / Pearl Society / Student Fellowship
What motivates you to sponsor a student or play?
I love theatre, I guess it’s an escape, but it’s challenging you learn, you think about life. It’s wonderful. First of all the conservatory Asolo relationship is a very unusual unique and special relationship. The students can graduate with an equity card because they get to act with equity actors. The training they get is extraordinary; the students will tell you that. Every one of these 12 students is chosen out of 2000 to be part of the conservatory. Katie Cunningham who is one of two I sponsor just graduated and went to NY and just acted in a play in Maine and another one in Chattanooga. It’s fabulous to see them grow and mature. First of all their wonderful people, but then to see them grow as actors is such a splendid thing to watch, and maybe someday they’ll really be famous and I can say I knew them when.
As I make my way to find my friend, I see two young people who can help feed my curiosity as to why the Asolo attracts a young demographic more so than any other theatre I’ve been to.
In your opinion why does the Asolo attract more of a younger generation than any other theatre?
Sheila Bandyopadhyay – Cheerful Faculty Member
I think it’s because of the conservatory. The Asolo has a group of younger actors that’s part of this older community. It’s something they can understand.
Michael Cutirght – Boyfriend with Benefits
I think the fact that it’s a reparatory builds a community and with the school attached. It’s everything under one roof and it’s just all the connections. I’m here because I’m dating someone who’s a student and I get free tickets, and then the other people from the company are here and their families show up. I think that’s why, it’s more real that way as opposed to a product, it’s a real community.
I always have a fantastic time when I come to the Asolo Theatre. If you must go and don’t have someone to come with you, its okay to go to the theatre alone, sometimes I have a better time than going with someone, don’t let that discourage you from seeing this hilarious comedy, The Games AFoot, you won’t be disappointed.
The play closes on May 12th, so go online to www.asolorep.org or call the box office 941.735.1131. Upcoming shows Noah Racey’s Pulse is May 23-June 16, My Brilliant Divorce June 26-July 14 and Macbeth in October-November.
As always, thank you for reading my reviews, I love to hear your feedback, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see photographs taken by InstudioEphoto.com from the Opening Night of The Games AFoot click here.