Review: 'Play On! by Warner Theatre's Performance Lab

Nancy Sasso Janis

The students in the Warner Theatre’s Performance Lab presented their opening night performance of ‘Play On!’ on Friday evening at the Nancy Marine Studio Theatre, down the block from the Warner Theatre in Torrington. This comedy in three acts was written by Rick Abbot as what director Isabel Carrington calls a kind of “love letter to community theatre.” It is a play about putting on a play that is a unique and fun look behind the scenes. Every crazy episode, reference, and line seemed perfectly accurate, even to someone who has a limited number of credits on their theatrical resume. It follows the journey that a group of present day community actors takes while trying to produce a mediocre mystery entitled ‘Murder Most Foul.’ If you think the dress rehearsal runs badly, wait until you get to see their opening night. 

The best part of P-Lab productions are always the admirable performances of the teens involved in this class at the Warner Theatre’s Center for Arts Education. I probably have said it before, but I enjoy watching Ms Carrington watch the performances of her teenaged thespians. I never get tired of hearing her laugh at the very funny lines as she sits next to the sound technician; it is probably how I would react if I ever were to serve as a director of a productions by young actors.

So high school freshman Meghan Sullivan makes her P-Lab debut and plays Aggie the harried stage managers to HS freshman Jessica Lay as the director of ‘Murder Most Foul.’ Junior Catherine MacKay is perfectly cast as the kooky playwright Phyllis and freshman Aspyn Bean is her vapid assistant named Dahlia. 

Junior Connor Picard, who I am convinced can do anything, is Henry Benish who plays Lord Dudley. His plump wife Polly, who tries mightily to play Lady Margaret, is brought to life by Sacred Heart University junior Emily Creighton. Freshman Allison Rau is quite cute as the young student playing Doris the Maid.
High school junior Charlie Rau is an actor named Saul who plays Dr. Rex Forbes. Sophomore Nicholas Calabrese plays Billy who appears in the play as Stephen Sellers. Sophomore Hannah Begley plays Louise Perry and Morgan Rinaldi, a freshman, plays Violet/socialite Diana Lassiter. 

The set that grows into a full English drawing room was designed by Les Ober and Ms. Carrington, with the director and her husband Bif Carrington serving as set dressers. Costumes (both street clothes and period costumes) were designed by Johanna DeZurik and Ms. Carrington. Mr. Ober also did the lighting design; I was pleased to sit near both Mr. Carrington and Mr. Ober on opening night, while everyone else was next door rocking out with the cast of ‘Rock of Ages.’ The volunteer ushers carefully checked to make sure that every patron was showing up at the correct venue, something they probably do whenever the Warner is running shows on both of their stages. 

Come see the hysterical "love letter to community theatre", PLAY ON!, presented by the WTCAE Performance Lab troupe. This weekend only at the Warner's Nancy Marine Studio Theatre. For anyone who loves theatre, this madcap farce is a blend of ‘Noises Off,’ ‘Clue,’ and ‘Waiting For Guffman.’ I promise you'll laugh... a LOT! For tickets, visit
Photos courtesy of WTCAE