“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” at the Alliance Theatre
Screwball comedies can get pretty corny, but “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” isn’t corny. It’s a delightful funny show with some wonderful actors who portray historical black character actors in a truthful and humorous way. Not only is the script funny, but so are the actors.
The play harkens back to the days of “Gone With the Wind” with an over-the-top starlet named Gloria Mitchell (Courtney Patterson) not too unlike Norma Desmond from “Sunset Boulevard,” and black actors who were relegated to playing maids, servants and slaves. One of the funniest scens is when Lottie (Nikiya Mathis) and Vera (Toni Trucks) shuffle along as slaves in response to the style of characters movie producer Mr. Slasvick (Andrew Benator) and movie director Maximillian Von Oster (Daniel Triandiflou) are looking for to cast in their next movie. The other is when Leroy (Genesis Oliver), who has the soul of the soul of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, tries to charm Vera into going out with him.
If only the laughs were to continue. Alas, the second act drags during a TV Mike Douglas-type talk-show segment where there is way too much talk and not enough action. Still, it’s a show worth seeing with wonderful acting by Benator, Mathis, Oliver and Trucks.
John Coyne’s set design is as elaborate as a 1930s movie set, and costume designer Esosa does a splendid job in creating costumes. We loved the early 70s-style dress with feather-like trim at the hems that looked like it came right off Phyllis Diller, Ruth Buzzy or Flip Wilson.
“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, directed by Leah C. Gardiner, runs on the main stage at the Alliance Theatre through Nov. 10.