Have you ever seen a production that had a lot of potential, but just didn’t quite hit it out of the park in the way that it should? Yesterday I saw a fairly new play called Falling in Like. From what I gathered there have only been a couple of other productions of the show, written by Jerry Sipp and directed by Andrew N. Davis. When I’d first heard about the show, the title alone was enough to catch my attention. It sounds like a great romantic comedy.
The production was done at Cookeville Performing Arts Center, which puts out some great pieces of community theatre. In fact, the entire town of Cookeville has some amazing theatrical opportunities at CPAC, The Wesley Arena Theatre, and Tennessee Technological University’s Backdoor Playhouse.
The basis of the story is all rom-com. A production of a play loses its leading lady to an injury only weeks before opening. An unsuspecting intern ends up stepping into the role and makes it part of her mission in life to use her psychology degree to “shrink” the stand-offish leading man, who has no desire to share any part of his personal life with… anyone.
Surrounding them is a supporting cast of a producer, director/playwright, another cast member, and a stage manager to add to the laughs. Leading lady, intern/understudy Abbie was played by Chessilyn Angel, and her leading man Frank was played by Tony Craighead. Chessilyn did a wonderful job of portraying the innocence and exuberance of a recent college grad ready to make her way in the world. Tony played the standoffish leading actor well.
Stage manager Marge was played by Tracy J. Clark. She was hilarious and the character had some of the best one liners in the entire show. She had, perhaps, the most interesting character in the entire production. You knew, almost immediately, Marge had been doing her job for so long that she had become slightly jaded in her work, but that she still knew how to get things done.
Playwright Arnie was played by Travis Flatt. He was the slightly eccentric writer who was still re-writing parts of the play right to the very end. Travis had the “crazy” down, complete w/ scribbles on legal pads and cup after cup of coffee. Evil leading actress Victoria was played with self-absorbed perfection by Kimberly Frick-Welker. Adam Combs played the other actor in the play, Sonny, who was always getting lines cut from his role and trying his best to get some lines back. Constantly trying to make the peace with everyone was producer Jeffrey played by Lynn England. Lynn portrays such a clam persona as Jeffrey that it works well.
Staged as a “Backstage Production,” all the seats for the audience are on the stage. I’ve seen “Backstage” productions at CPAC before, but unlike other times, Falling in Like has the first row of both sides of seats reserved as part of the show. It works well and gave me a feeling of interaction with the cast a la Spring Awakening. There was very little in the way of props, but that fit the show well since it was all about the rehearsal stage of a play.
Overall, the show was good. It was fairly well acted, well-staged, and had its laughs. My reason for saying that it “wasn’t quite there” yet was simply that I didn’t feel a major connection with any of the characters (Marge, the stage director aside). The bones of the story are the bones of a great romantic comedy, but I think there needs to be some more character development in the writing. I wanted to know why Frank was so unwilling to share his personal life (I never felt like I got an answer). I wanted Abbie to be a little less annoying in her quest to “shrink” Frank. I wanted to know why Frank and Victoria had the strange relationship that they had (were they former lovers?).
Still, this show is more than worth going to see. It’s funny and an enjoyable way to spend an evening. You can still catch Falling in Like at Cookeville Performing Arts Center through September 3rd. You can call 931-28-1313 to buy tickets.