Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

The Sound of a Voice

May 10, 2011

French Stewart, Laurie Metcalf, and Maile Flanagan Photo: Ed Krieger

Justin Tanner’s work is never away from Los Angeles stages for long. Given his keen ear for comedy, that’s a good thing. And right now, there’s a chance to see perhaps one of his best received works, 2009’s Voice Lessons, on a return visit to the city at Sacred Fools Theater. Best of all, the original cast and director Bart DeLorenzo have all reassembled for this time-limited revival ensuring that the play lives up to its prior very popular and very funny incarnation. French Stewart plays Nate, a vocal coach at a local community college with a divorce and any number of issues he keeps professionally bottled up below a cool and rational exterior. The play opens when Nate first meets Virginia, played by the hysterical Laurie Metcalf. “Ginny”’s lack of vocal talent is deliciously mixed with an inability to perceive her own shortcomings and her desire for fame and romance. Despite his protestations, Ginny has talked Nate into taking her on as a student against his better judgement. Nate’s initial annoyance at Ginny’s eccentric behavior and particular delusions eventually becomes more complicated as his own flaws are dragged out into the light of day, including an affair with another woman, Sheryl, that creates new conflicts for everyone involved.

Admittedly, the premise at times runs a bit like a skit that has been stretched to a short-play length, but there are too many laughs here to brush Voice Lessons off that easily. Laurie Metcalf is excellent as Ginny and she manages the physical aspects of the role with great skill. Although Stewart often ends up being the straight man, he too gets into the act scoring hits with far more subtle material. Maile Flanagan’s Sheryl provides a great counterpoint to both in this romantic triangle that never quite is. The show is paced well and at just over an hour it’s the perfect size for the laughs it’s after. The show runs through May 29 in Hollywood, so grab your chance to see this L.A. original with its great original cast while you can.


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