First off, I want to make sure you know that Black Theatre Troupe replaced their originally scheduled season closer, Three Sistahs, with a second run of Revenge of a King, which you really ought to catch if you haven't already (it plays through Sunday, May 10). (Read Robrt L. Pela's review of the revival here.)
Okay, on to this week's new review: Honestly, I swear to Dionysus and all his maenads that I didn't choose to see another play about adulterous theater people, directed by the same director and featuring one of the same actors as Tempe Little Theatre's production of Murder Among Friends earlier this year. But that's what I found I was in for when I arrived at Chyro Arts Venue and looked at the program for Chyro's Voice Theatre's production of Private Eyes.
The script is by Steven Dietz, a prolific author of plays that are fiercely popular with regional theater companies (and especially so with Phoenix-area troupes, from what I can tell). Dietz messes with our perception of reality in ways that take advantage of the idiosyncrasies of the live stage, and his writing displays a friendly whimsy that warms his inquiries into even the less savory aspects of humanity.
Having a better play to work with seems to have made all the difference for director Janis Webb and her cast. As the audience is led down a variety of blind alleys of thankfully rudimentary storyline, we come to care about the marriage of Matthew and Lisa (Travis Russell and Nathalie Cadieux) as they apparently rehearse a fairly crappy play-within-the-play about theater people that may or may not be a barely disguised treatment of director-within-the-play Adrian's womanizing. (You don't have to grasp any of that going in, but it's not exactly a spoiler, either.)
Then there are the therapy segments, in which Joy Bingham Strimple, who is usually pretty fun to watch in anything, gives the most beautifully mannered, campy-yet-subtle performance I've ever seen from her as the wry, narcissistic Dr. Frank. And Amanda Victor is sexy, sad, and kind of hilarious as the mysterious Cory.
Really, there aren't significant false notes in the acting of any of the six roles (who are seen through at least four sets of "eyes" by the time the play wraps up -- or doesn't). The native Welshwoman sitting next to me may have been put off by the British dialect required of one character (I found it tolerable and not distracting for U.S. ears), but it's possible she just changed seats at intermission, too -- Chyro has a lot of folding chair and sofa choices, and squooshiness varies.
Michael Peck's set is a serviceable, appropriately askew framework that doesn't overwhelm the small, informal space. The occasional projections didn't add anything for me, but they weren't obnoxious, either.
Private Eyes runs through Saturday, May 9 at Chyro Arts Venue, 1330 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are $10 to $12; order here or call 480-258-2329 after 5 p.m. on performance days.
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