ORLANDO — Sometimes it’s not easy being the supporting cast. And I’m not talking about the actors in television shows, movies or on Broadway who hide in the shadows under the marquee-name star. It’s not always a picnic being the buddy who watches on the sidelines as two friends chart those most choppy and unpredictable of waters, the pursuit of love. Romance, after all, has been written about so much throughout the ages that most of us — especially if we’re avid readers –should be able to master it by the time we hit college. It doesn’t quite work that way, though, does it? And that’s precisely what Charlie recognizes as he observes his pal Ben begin the dating ritual with Naomi.
Ben is a kind, gentle soul, and Naomi is sweet and good natured. They watch Japanese flicks by the famous dirctor Akira Kurosawa, eat Chinese food, and discuss movie trivia. Ben even appears to be winning Naomi over when he shows her his book of poems — which includes the ones he drafted at age 5 that, in all probability, won’t make Robert Frost feel envious. But Ben’s slight embarrassment at their cheesy, Hey-what-do-you-want-I-was-5 nature only seems to make him more endearing to Naomi.
But as you can probably imagine, things start to get bumpy for the lovebirds.
It always does.
“The Supporting Cast” is a sweet, funny comedy about the dating world, capturing those awkward times when sitting on a couch next to the person you might be falling for offers up the occasional “perfect moment” when everything is going just right, and then …. oops. You say something stupid. Or stumble over your words or actions. And suddenly the moment has been lost. Will it ever come again? Written and directed by Jamie B. Cline, “Supporting Cast” has, beneath its comical moments, more than a few elements of truth about the potholes that come up on the dating world. It’s so hard to make any series of dates feel like everything is going smoothly, when everything reaches those euphoric moment of sheer perfection. Mostly you’re still trying to get a sense of what your date likes and doesn’t like, what the other person will respond to in a positive manner — and what grossly turns them off. It’s hit or miss, and Ben and Naomi do plenty of both as Charlie — who also serves as our narrator, and who occasionally likes to banter with the theater audience — looks on.
He has one advantage, though: Charlie can snap his fingers and Ben and Naomi freeze, as time stops. Charlie can then make a valiant effort to rescue the moment — like tossing a note into Ben’s hand for him to read to Naomi after Charlie snaps his fingers and brings them back to reality, with, Charlie hopes, the perfectly chosen words to make it all better. Does it always work? Well, not quite.
Still, wouldn’t life be great if our supporting cast truly could rescue us at those major league “oops” moments?
Part of the play’s charm consists of a likable cast that makes you want to root for the couple’s success, since both Allan Forbes as Ben and Allison Piehl as Naomi seem natural and easy to relate to. Their good and bad moments feel like something we might have experienced ourselves, perhaps not so long ago. And John Reid Adams makes for a fun and engaging narrator — not to mention a fine Cupid with his finger-snapping tricks.
Fringe often seems to encourage, perhaps even inspire, local artists to be at their most creatively outrageous — to throw caution to the wind and to take “experimental” to new heights. Sometimes it works, sometimes the results are supremely dreadful — I’ve experienced both at Fringe.
“The Supporting Cast,” on the other hand, is happy to be a modest 45 minute look at dating in ways any of us can associate with as being true to life. It’s a pleasant, enjoyable way to spend your time at Fringe.
“The Supporting Cast” has two more performances, tonight at 5:45 and Saturday at 7:45 p.m. Tickets cost $8 and the show is being performed in the Brown Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theatre in Loch Haven Park.
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