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Blame It On Beckett

John Morgiello's little gem of a comedy focuses on an overloaded theater literary manager and his ambitious acolyte.

Warren Kelley and Lori Gardner in Blame It On Beckett
(© Anthony J. Merced)
You think you've got it bad with data overload. Pity Jim Foley, the poor literary manager -- struggling under the onslaught of thousands of unsolicited scripts (each with a needy, insecure author attached) -- at the center of John Morgiello's little gem of a comedy, Blame It On Beckett, now at the Abingdon Theatre.

Overwhelmed by the deluge of scripts pouring into the small regional theatre where he works, Foley (Warren Kelley) has grown cynical and slack, as submissions now mount toward the ceiling. And having long since despaired of finding a diamond in the rough, he has instead pinned his hopes on making himself indispensable as dramaturg to his company's pet playwright, Tina Fike (Anne Newhall), whose work regularly makes the leap to New York.

Into Jim's derelict lair steps Heidi Bishop (Lori Gardner), a bright-eyed, newly minted MBA who hopes merely to make the leap from box office to back office. While he first thinks of her as "Mary Poppins," it turns out "Eve Harrington" might be more like it. It won't be long before Heidi, her idealism matched only by her ambition, does her utmost to outshine her supposed mentor.

As the plot takes its turns, we get to enjoy Jim's snarky perorations about what does -- and doesn't -- make for good theater. For example, Jim, whose tastes run to the Shavian and no further, shuns experimentalism in favor of classic dramatic structure. And Samuel Beckett, predictably enough, comes in for a drubbing: "'Waiting for Godot wreaked more havoc on Western drama than Oliver Cromwell," Jim contends.

Director Jackob G. Hofmann keeps his ensemble -- including Mark Doherty as the uncouth and ruthless general manager John Braschi -- in mostly tight sync. The one excepteion is Newhall, who appears to be operating at a different rpm. Most jarringly, her character's affect is weird, even for a celebrated playwright.

Still, Morogiello clearly knows his milieu. He even gives himself a glancing mention, as a persistent supplicant whose scripts Jim tosses straight in the trash. However, anyone who threw out Blame it on Beckett made a big mistake.


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