With ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST FANS a new husband and wife acting team is born. In this case, they are also the playwrights! Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman married in 1984. The newlyweds thought it would be a great idea to write a play they could perform together. They tossed off the first 30 pages before putting it on the shelf, where it stayed for more than 25 years.
During the down-time that followed Hurricane Sandy, the pair unearthed the script and decided it was finally time to finish what they started. The result premiered last year in California under the title “Assisted Living” and now makes its East Coast premiere at New Brunswick's George Street Playhouse.
The play has an intriguing tagline: “4 characters, 3 scenes, 2 actors, 1 play.” The 1 play spins around Frank, an aging actor famous for his role as Dr. Dan in a struggling network soap. He lives with his girlfriend Emily, a former make-up artist at the studio, who watches over his diet and urges him to answer his long-neglected pile of fan mail. One particular letter becomes a point of contention – and that leads directly to our introduction to the other 2 characters: down-market Heather and her depressed dad, who lives in an assisted living home surviving on a diet of jello and “incontinental breakfasts.”
How the first 2 characters intersect with the second is the 90-minute play's main plot discovery.
Dooley, one of Hollywood's best-loved character actors, returns to George Street after pairing with the late Jack Klugman in THE SUNSHINE BOYS.
While neither of his characters in ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST FANS are a ray of sunshine, their grumblings are in Dooley's expert hands. He easily manages to wring humor from the play's frequently funny turns of phrase. Holzman, who skillfully translated Gregory Maguire's densely plotted WICKED from page to stage, has some acting credits but isn't quite at the level of her more experienced husband.
Her quirky, halting style doesn't always jive with Dooley's more relaxed, natural approach. Most of the play's laughs are earned by Dooley, and earned early on – perhaps indicative of the quarter century hiatus in the writing process. The play's first half has the optimism of youth while the second half the jaded melancholy of age. The writing attempts to parallel the 2 couples but it is mainly the 1 liners and familiar jabs at soap operas that work best here.
Two of the 3 scenes are played out in an aggressively beige Manhattan apartment. The walls are decorated with empty picture frames. I suppose these are a metaphor for the characters' empty lives, but they more obviously represent the play itself; a framework in search of some real people.
Reviewed by Guest Reviewer Michael T. Mooney Feb. 1, 2014
Tickets beginning at $28 may be purchased at the George Street Playhouse Box Office, 732-246-7717, or through the Playhouse website: www.GSPonline.org.
George Street Playhouse is located at 9 Livingston Avenue, in the very center of New Brunswick’s vibrant downtown dining and entertainment scene. Visit GSPonline.org for information on dining, parking and directions.