TEENS RACE TO BE THE HOMECOMING ROYALS, A WILD ROMP, A MARX BROTHERS CLASSIC FOR GENERATION Z
A THEATRE NEAR U, WORLD PREMIERE OF A MADNESS & MAYHEM SCREWBALL COMEDY
“LIKE, LIKE LIKE?” A NEW TEEN FARCE
It is Homecoming at a whirlwind high school created by the THEATRE NEAR U youth theatre company. The world premiere of the new comedy LIKE LIKE LIKE? from the husband and wife team Kientz and Herr marks their summer production now on stage at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts through July 1. I usually do not cover youth or teen productions. Mainly it is difficult for me to criticize student actors, since every student should have an opportunity to act or perform whether they have the talent or not. Yet this talented company of enthusiastic teen actors are all full of promise and spirit. This mad cap new work deserves a mention. A THEATRE NEAR U is based out in the SF Peninsula Palo Alto area and combines a number of Peninsula high schools and city colleges.
Producer and director Tanna Herr says “We now have a new show which is completely different from last year’s A Beautiful Glass. We have many of the same superb actors including last year’s Broadway World award winners Emily Liberatore and Jackson Wylder, but this time we have created a farce. The screwball farce, Like, Like Like? Is filled with mistaken identities, lying liars and clean-cut anarchists, following the rigging of a Homecoming Queen election.”
LIKE LIKE LIKE? is written and co directed by Hollywood writer Tony Kienitz. He says he analyzed about 25 different plays to come up with this wild teen ride “I re-read Noises Off Naturally, and examined The Foreigner Feydeau, Joe Orton, Dario Fo, and The Nerd. Oh, and Steve Martin's The Underpants was helpful as well. I watched several episodes of Frasier to top it off. All in all, I notated what I like best from each and ventured forth. It was a fun time.” He also said “that there isn’t much farce available outside of bawdy adult productions. While many schools may take on shows such as Noises Off, the material is both written for and aimed at adults. Like, Like, Like? is a script written specifically for the young actors involved in A Theatre Near U to explore. The plot exaggerates situations that are immediately familiar to them, as it lets them tell the story in their current lexicon.”
The Film and Theatre Academy A THEATRE NEAR U brings their madcap new original farce, LIKE LIKE, LIKE? to the stage. Not always an easy story to follow the sitcom is set in a high school run by the students. The resident everyman anarchist, Dave, inspires his classmates to believe that they all will be crowned this year’s Homecoming Queen/King that is, if they can rig the vote properly. I won’t give away much of the high jinks. Even though Kienitz credits Steve Martin as an inspiration, I found this to be a classic Marx Brothers romp, with a duck and blood thirsty eagle (Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera). The crazy story includes identical twins, exchange student identity swaps, swamp rats, nerd robots, Flag girls, raging teen hormones and a second act finally that opens up the Mt View Arts center for a zany chase for the gold.
The cast includes sixteen young actors all with their own strengths, and each has natural comic timing to pull off Kienitz’ script. The accomplished Jackson Wylder plays the everyman lead instigator to the plot, Dave Miller, who convinces the his peers that they all can be homecoming heroes. Wylder is a ATNU vet who have been in their last three original productions. The splendid Gil Wessman who plays both Schlit brothers is a first rate young actor who spent most of the two hour story in conflict with the other characters and fighting off girls. The sharp, Mia Trubelja, a senior at Palo Alto High, plays the priceless prom queen who does not want to lose her royal status. She has the able comic skills with Emily Liberatore also a third year ATNU player who is strong in her role as the eccentric Colleen.
The dynamic dapper Quincy Shaindlin who just finished a commanding role in Spring Awakening plays the tuxedo, handsome Orson. He splits his look in the second act and is hilarious keeping high energy Monica Hobbs as Morgan at arms length. The swell Johannes de Quant and Austin Nipper, both West Valley College students play Randall and Kelvin two characters who fight the robots and their own demons. They are both excellent with pitch perfect Groucho Marx timing from Nipper with his side kick Quant. The versatile Anna Feenstra and Alia Cuadros-Contrera both play undercover foreign exchange kids Sophia and Sophia. Their european flavor captures their high jinx and keeps the other students guessing.
Director Tanna Herr keeps the cast busy coming and going from all directions. The Jock ex high schooler Mc Boaty played by the rousing Sam Woodbury steals all his entrances as the dimwitted lovable goof. Anya Trubelja props had to hold the story together as the set is simple with floating flats that the cast rearranges. Trubelja crafted some colorful ballot boxes that Lauren Emo, as Riley and Daniel Lindstrom as Todd make sure they have found the right ballots to win the honor for Homecoming. The snappy Emerald Inay as Kait and then aspiring Alyssa Rojas as Daytona, whip through over the top flag dances and are winning highsteppers.
But the scene stealer is their real “queen for the day” Mitch, who heads the flag dances as he flirts with all the guys in the cast, played superbly camp by Robert Vetter. Herr kept him dressed in skin tight teen queen cute. The other students are colorful crazy with mixed match socks, shirts, shoes and boxers. Kienitz and his wife Herr also crafted the movable flats that set up the hallways to the Drama Classroom and the Quad at the school. Both Herr and Kienitz made the scene changes stylish fun as the cast rearrange the space while sound designer Samuel Kim’s pipes in a hip hop pop score that keeps the young cast dancing.
A THEATRE NEAR U is dedicated to producing new, original work for younger actors, musicians and technicians. “We do this because — as we realized a handful of years back — the older, professional artists of the theatrical world typically spend a disproportionate amount of their working lives digging into material that has never been seen prior; that is to say, the majority of their careers are spent on original stuff. So why, we asked, should people have to wait until they turn pro? Why not afford a few fortunate kids the opportunity of creating and staging brand spanking new plays? Why not? So, yeah, that’s what we do” says Tanna Herr.
LIKE LIKE LIKE? - is easy to like, yet sometimes difficult to follow. At times it has that sloppy senior show feel, as if the kids are improvising the lines, not always sincere in their delivery and roles. Yet they all have a great time and so does the audience filled with family and friends who seem to get more of the puns and jokes than I did. The most impressive wild Mel Brooks/ Commedia dell'arte ending with pizza boxes replacing bats and bongs as the cast takes over the entire Second stage at the Mt View Performance arts space. A funny wonderful take on an anthem to our president brings the two plus hours to a close as Kienitz ends his zany teen farce on a political high note. Next up A THEATRE NEAR U opens this later summer with LORD OF THE FLIES July 28th at the Pear stage in Mt View.
A THEATRE NEAR U PRESENTS
The World Premiere of
Like, Like Like?
Written by Tony Kienitz
Produced by Tanna Herr
Directed by Tanna Herr & Tony Kienitz
Must Close July 1, 2017
Second Stage at
Mt View Center for the Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Running time 2 hours 15 min one intermission
Photos courtesy of A Theatre Near U – Kristina Vetter
*Tony Kienitz interview courtesy of Ande Jacobson “A Good Reed Review”
Alia Cuadros-Contreras Johannes de Quant Lauren Emo
Anna Feenstra Monica Hobbs Emerald Inay
Emily Liberatore Daniel Lindstrom Austin Nipper
Alyssa Rojas Quincy Shaindlin Mia Trubelja
Robert Vetter Gil Weissman Sam Woodbury Jackson Wylder