The Dragonfly Multicultural Arts Center took audiences behind the curtain to expose the alternate side of theatre. For their February 10th, Wednesday night reading, the company used a virtual arena to present the radio play version of All About Eve. The audience warmed up to this story quick.
In the preliminary situation, Margo Channing (played by Ann Grippo) had conquered theatrical stages as a sought-after actress. Playwright Lloyd Richards (Thom Boyer) tailored his lead roles specifically for her. Margo’s love interest, Bill Sampson (Nathaniel Tomb), prepared to direct his first Hollywood movie. A loyal maid, Birdie (Susan Roberts), loyally served her. In addition, Lloyd’s wife Karen (Susan Holtz) introduced her to a fan who had followed Margo’s latest show across the country: a young woman named Eve (Shauni Ramai).
Quite a pleasant backdrop. But a trap opened up underneath these given circumstances. Margo missed the cues that Eve didn’t simply aspire to meet her idol: she longed to be her idol. Aside from acting as Margo’s assistant, her focus shifted to seeking the limelight. Eve took the stage as Margo’s understudy. She tried to strike up a relationship with Bill. The dialog she used to open up to critic Addison DeWitt (Noah Stanzione) didn’t mask her ambitions.
With this in the backdrop, Margo confronted her most challenging role yet: playing an “ageless” ingenue both on and off the stage.
Dragonfly’s production team used the radio play script of All About Eve for this performance. They still allowed the audience to watch the actors play their roles on both the Zoom and Facebook platforms. The cast showcased excellent costuming. Noah Stanzione used a jacket, open shirt and a cravat to accoutre the ambitious critic, Addison DeWitt. Ann Grippo varied her attire nicely for Margo Channing. She wore a robe with a towel on her head when in the character’s dressing room. For her public persona, she wore a fashionable jacket and scarf that suited the character.
Shauni Ramai’s character said, “My heart is in the theatre.” From Ms. Ramai’s performance, one would surmise that the role became the actor. Ms. Rami brought her signature enthusiasm to this performance. She burst with joy to reflect her character’s thrill when meeting her idol. At the show’s conclusion, Ms. Ramai delivered an animated acceptance speech.
The Eve character gave Ms. Ramai the opportunity to play an oblique figure. With deadpan diction, Susan Roberts explained to an incredulous Ann Grippo that Eve was “studying her as if she were in a play” or “a blueprint.”
Ms. Ramai enacted the character’s ruthlessness. While trying to woo Margo’s love interest, she spoke with a seductive tone that contaned a hint of malice in it. Her malevolent eye roll when blackmailing Susan Hotz’s character expressed Eve’s mercilessness.
Ms. Rami employed her talent for non-verbal expression in other creative ways. When lying to Addision about Eve’s past, she flinched. During the same scene, she also performed an authentic impersonation of Noah Stanzione’s character.
It’s always interesting to watch an actor portray another actor. Ann Grippo accepted the challenge of playing aging starlet, Margo Channing. Nathaniel Tomb’s character described her as a “hysterical screaming harpie.” Ms. Grippo brought that temperamental personality to the Zoom and Facebook platforms.
At times, Ms. Grippo’s performance could draw comparisons with Faye Dunaway’s interpretation of Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest. Her dramatic delivery of her dialog, the use of the martini glass prop and her longing for Bill “to love (her) and not Margo Channing,” captured the personality of this high-strung character. Ms. Grippo allowed Margo’s frustrations over her own aging coming into conflict with the ageism in the industry to project in her voice.
Ms. Grippo showed Margo’s passions controlling her during an argument with Lloyd. Ms. Grippo and Thom Boyer made this one of the show’s most memorable scenes. Mr. Boyer delivered the cryptic riposte, “It is time the piano realizes it has not written the concerto.”
While familiar with the 1950 Hollywood film, the performers didn’t study it prior to the show. The actors presented their own interpretations of the characters. Through his haughty accent, Nathaniel Tomb showed Bill’s egotism. Noah Stanzione’s diction expressed Addison’s cynicism. Susan Holtz also selected a solid accent and used well thought out vocal inflections for Karen.
Anna Paone performed the play’s introductory announcements. Catherine LaMoreaux managed the sound effects. Laura Paone portrayed the Operator, the Waiter and Miss Caswell.
All About Eve showed that cynicism, intrigue and skullduggery can take place in theatre. The performers at the Dragonfly Multicultural Arts Center showed the audience just how entertaining it is to watch it.
To honor Black History Month, Dragonfly will present excerpts from Angelina W. Grimke’s Rachel. This drama was the first play written by an African American to be produced in the United States. This reading will take place at 8:00 PM on February 17th. For more information, please consult the Dragonfly Multicultural Arts’ Facebook page.