A semi-finalist at the prestigious O’Neill conference in 2021, ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is the first show of the Road Company’s 2022-2023 season. The dramedy is making its world premiere in Los Angeles and is scheduled to open in New York City in March 2023. Best known for “The Nibroc Trilogy,” playwright Arlene Hutton turns to comic relief with her current script.
The time is July through December 1984, and the place is a room in the basement of a Broadway theater which is used for quick wardrobe changes. The play in question has been running for eight years, and there have been rumors that it may soon be ending. Enter the cast, led by unionized dressers Audrey (played by understudy Janet Chamberlain), Brenda (Amy Tolsky), and KJ (Samantha Tan), who’s just come on board after dressing for an opera company. The balance of the cast are the chorines who dance their way through the production, a cross section of empty-headed and gossipy dancers who stereotypically inhabited the theaters of the mid-80s. Only two men surface in the story, Peter (Juan Pope), KJ’s estranged spouse, and Van (Danny Lee Gomez), an ex who’s barely hanging in there. And there’s even a pup by the name of Olivia (Gidget the dog) who seemed rather bored by the chattering and squabbling going on around him.
It seems that there is a feud going on between the “blue collar” dressers and the “artistic elite” chorines. Each group is sure that hers is the truly hard working and talented clique which must put up with that other crowd of annoying and complaining ladies. Small background stories dot the tale about each of the characters, including an abused wife, a divorcee with financial problems, and a woman with dreams of writing the perfect play – but none are fully developed. Each is tantalizingly dangled before the viewer and then summarily discarded with little concern. Always clawing at the tale from the background is the looming AIDS crisis and its effect on the artistic community. In fact, ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is a collection of scenes gathered into a story spanning six months – with unwritten and assumed events which happen in between. Kudos are in order for Paul Dufresne’s set design, Michele Young’s costume design, and Judi Lewin’s wigs/hair/makeup, which help bring the 80s into focus.
Director Emily Chase probably had her share of herding cats during the show’s preparation. The overall effect is the clattering and clucking of “the girls” in the henhouse. On occasion, things quiet down a bit – at least long enough to throw in a potentially poignant moment. But there is always the feeling of vitality and movement, clutter in both the environment and in the minds and hearts of the people in that environment. Although the show has been billed as a peek into backstage show biz life, this is probably backstage shenanigans which may have gone the way of the dodo bird. Let’s hope so, ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is entertaining and showy, and it will probably resonate with those who have been in show business for long enough to remember those “good old days.” It is cute, but not terribly comic; and it will certainly appeal to those with an interest in the history of live theater.
ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS runs through December 11, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Road Theatre company performs at the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $39 (students and seniors $15; Sunday performances Pay-What-You-Can). For information and reservations, call 818-761-8838 or go online.