There is an inherent problem with evenings like Say What?! that, no matter the talent involved, is nearly impossible to overcome: too many cooks spoiling the broth. Director Mitch Poulos worked very hard to give Say What?! a consistency, but when there are 10 comic sketches by five authors featuring 20 actors, there is bound to be a disparate feel to an evening, and it's a problem that sporadically but persistently plagued this ambitious undertaking.
The most successful pieces of the evening were the ones contributed by Michael Camenisch and John DeVore, two playwrights with decidedly twisted points of view. Among the best were Camenisch's Hungry, a hilarious series of sexual double-entendres well played by Jason Grutter, Dina Drew, and Mark Hankla; Phones, which featured a stellar performance by Amy Ellenberger as a receptionist whose telephone answering skills rivaled Rosalind Russell's in Auntie Mame; and Line -up, a very funny sketch that treated a police line-up as an audition and drew perfectly timed comic performances from Michael Whitney, Michael Tancredi, Eric Conley, Daniel Martin, Grutter and Hankla; finally, DeVore's Face Time gave new meaning to the terms "coming out" as an office drone perceived as gay decides he really is straight (another inspired performance from Whitney).
Maitely Weissman and Hankla gave terrific performances in Terry Rouche's moving, if far too long, Coming of Age, and Theresa Cornish's superb sense of comedy helped her stand out in every role she played.
Mark Hankla's set worked well enough, considering the number of locations that had to be accommodated. Jeff Carnell's lighting was over-bright and flat, although one scene set in a 1970s disco pulsed with color and flash. Costumes (Cornish) were generic and appropriate to each character, and Poulos kept everything moving at as quick a pace as possible, although the evening played out considerably longer than its advertised one hour running time.
(Also featuring Suzanne Hayes, Traci Hovel, Jason Jennings, Jennifer Lorch, Bonnie Marsh, Lena Moore, Sherikay Perry, Shari Sklar, Dana Varon)
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita