Lots of Laughter On Stage at Center Playhouse

Cast from Mr. 80%By Muriel J. Smith

FREEHOLD – Listen, laugh, and love Mr. 80%, the sparkling new comedy now on stage at the Center Playhouse for the next three weekends. It makes for a most entertaining, relaxing and fun-filled evening of laughter close to home.

Jeff Caplan, who recently made a name for himself in his clever portrayal of the lead in Center Players’ recent How the Other Half Loves as well as many other productions over the years, is joined by a cast of five who are all new to Freehold’s resident theater company, comparatively new to the world of acting, and filled with ambition, enthusiasm and talent. There’s an obvious joie de vivre among them all, and the result is a fast-paced two act play that is filled with some clever, sometimes naughty one-liners that bring chuckles and outright laughs throughout the evening.

Kudos also to Amy Brandt, a new director for Center Players, but a veteran in the field in other theaters, as well as an accomplished actor and singer in her own right. Also, praise must be given to Aaron Ratzan, the stage manager who deftly creates a series of scene changes in each act, darkening the theater for the transition, then having the actors back in their places when the lights go up again. A clever and well-timed scene-change, especially in a small theater like Center Playhouse, gives the audience a tiny peek into the world backstage and it is mechanics.

The play focuses on apartment renters Patricia (Melissa Mount), a not too friendly or personable intern, and Sharon (Angela Trombatore), an outgoing chirpy attorney who’s sick of men. The pair are searching for a roommate, with Sharon insisting it be either a female or a gay male. Enter Jan (Jeff Caplan) and Sam (Matthew Gochman), two very straight, but very broke comedians. Sam wants the apartment so badly he convinces Jan to play the role with him as a gay couple. The rest of the play dances around the comedic results of their lie, coupled with Sam’s obvious flirtations and affection for Sharon and the eventual happy ending for all at the end of the evening.

Daisy Velazquez-Glasgow portrays Ronnie, who appears to be a lady… using the term loosely … of the evening, but has the intelligence and education of a sophisticated woman. This is the second play in which she’s appeared, after taking a summer acting academy course two years ago, all the while married and raising four mostly young and teen-aged children. Look for her more in the future as she promises to be agile, versatile, and downright fun in her roles. Her love affair with the theater is apparent in her outstanding portrayal of Ronnie in this production.

The play is definitely the right prescription for creating happiness and fun. It’s necessary to listen carefully since there are so many one-liners you don’t want to miss a single chuckle. It’s downright fun, well cast with a half dozen actors who know how to make it lively, and a production team that has created a beautiful upper west side apartment of the mid-1980s.

Mr. 80% is onstage at Center Players through May 6th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Seating is limited to the remaining three weekends so get your seats today by calling the box office at (732) 462-9093. Tickets are only $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors and Students and includes a great variety of homemade and delicious Sam’s Club complimentary desserts and beverages at intermission, a wonderful addendum to a highly entertaining evening.

The final production in the 2011-12 Season, Tuesdays with Morrie, opens June 1st promising proof of the versatility of the Center Players featuring regulars Anthony Greco (seen in The Heiress, Barefoot in the Park, and director of many Center Players shows) and Bill Lee (The Passion of Dracula, The Heiress, 12 Angry Men) and directed by returning director Carla Zackson-Heller (Sylvia).

For further information about Center Players including the announcement of their upcoming 2012-13 season, visit them online at  www.centerplayers.org.


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