Thursday, March 1, 2012

WAKE UP, CAMERON DOBBS • West End Players Guild

The West End Players Guild continues its season with Wake Up, Cameron Dobbs, a world premiere penned by St. Louis actor and playwright, Stephen Peirick.  Written in 2006, this comedy is getting a splendid treatment with thoughtful, nimble performances and direction.

The lights come up on Owen (Eric Dean White) and his wife Abby's (Colleen Backer) New York City apartment.  They're preparing to host a little birthday dinner party for Owen's brother, Cameron (John Foughty).  The natural, conversational tone of the evening is delightfully set as Owen considers the wine for the night and Abby considers her wardrobe -- their back-and-forth is very funny.  Cameron shows up with a bloody nose and a bruised up face from falling into the gutter after being tripped just outside his brother's apartment.  Happy 30th birthday, right?!  After an explanation about his appearance and the discovery that the meal prepared for him features something he's deathly allergic to, Cameron admits that he'd lost his job months ago and could use a little financial boost from big bro.  Cameron suffers a considerable amount of ribbing from his brother concerning the specific circumstances of his job loss (an ill-timed company bathroom situation -- I'll just leave it at that, shall I?), and then Owen tells Cameron that he has invited their mother (Jan Meyer) to the party -- an invitation Abby wasn't expecting.  When Mom arrives, she flies into the details of her latest drama, is convinced that Cameron really got mugged instead of falling down, and manages to set everyone on edge.

John Foughty (Cameron), Jan Meyer (Mother),
Eric Dean White (Owen) and Colleen Backer (Abby).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Nobody was expecting that Abby would take it upon herself to invite Natalie (Sarajane Alverson), a co-worker, to the festivities in hopes of a match with Cameron, but she did, and Cam's b-day party continues its downward spiral.  Although it's obvious that his would-be date has ZERO interest in Cameron, Natalie, always up for a good time, takes him out on the town in an inspired effort to get Cameron to "wake up", grow a pair, and push back against the antagonism he's put up with from his family.

Part of the great thing about this play in addition to Peirick's skillful writing, is that under Robert Ashton's wonderful direction, each actor presents fully realized characters, and they all work together like a well-oiled machine.  John Foughty as the hapless Cameron brings a lovable quality to the guy described by his own family as "okay looking" and not a complete screw-up.  Eric Dean White as his self-involved older brother Owen was fantastic, wearing his role like a comfy sweater.  Colleen Backer as Owen's equally self-involved wife Abby delivers her lines with an excellent, deadpan, subtle hilarity.  These two are perfect for each other.  Jan Meyer's Mother is big fun from the minute she comes into the action, and Sarajane Alverson's Natalie also puts in a strong performance with perfect timing.
John Foughty (Cameron), Eric Dean White (Owen)
and Sarajane Alverson (Natalie).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Great work also by Ken Clark's scenic design, Anthony Anselmo's lighting design, Chuck Lavazzi's sound design, and Colleen Heneghan's costumes, that thoughtfully inform each player.

Not much longer to see this one -- it's playing until March 4th.  Go see it -- you won't be sorry.


Written by Stephen Peirick
Directed by Robert Ashton
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.
through March 4 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm

John Foughty (Cameron), Eric Dean White (Owen), Colleen Backer (Abby), Sarajane Alverson (Natalie) and Jan Meyer (Mother).

John Foughty (Cameron) and Sarajane Alverson (Natalie).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Scenic design by Ken Clark; lighting design by Anthony Anselmo; sound design by Chuck Lavazzi; costume design by Colleen Heneghan; special makeup effects designed by Anna Blair; asst. director/stage manager, Renee Sevier-Monsey. 

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