Somewhere in playwright Theresa Rebeck’s past there must have been a 420-too-friendly techie who smoked up the booth, a big-name hack who got the plum job and a lover who walked out without a word. Or maybe these professional disasters and personal heartbreaks, captured so hilariously and affectingly in The Understudy, are simply the products of Rebeck’s rich imagination. Either way, the comedy, now at Cincinnati Playhouse, has a ring of authenticity that anyone who’s ever acted, onstage or in life, should appreciate.
"I’m not bitter,” insists Harry, a thirtysomething actor close to hanging it up.
Now he’s been cast as stand-in to Jake, a B-list action hero making the leap from blockbusters to Broadway drama — in this case, a three-hour Kafka adaptation headlined by an A-list Hollywood star. The show is a surprise hit. Of course, when the production’s stage manager turns out to be Harry’s jilted former fiancée and when lightweight Jake turns out to be a Kafka savant and when the unseen but all-powerful producers prove themselves oblivious to this and anything else that matters, the bitterness hits the fan.
The Understudy continues at Playhouse in the Park through Oct. 17. Go here to read Julie York Coppens' full review.