With the exception of its popular annual 24-Hour Theatre Project (which will happen again at 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at GableStage), The Naked Stage produces shows sporadically, whenever time, funding and inspiration coalesce for cofounders Katherine and Antonio Amadeo. The actors are raising a daughter and son, so life often trumps artistic adventures.
Too personal? Antonio Amadeo doesn’t think so. He weaves intensely emotional exchanges about the tension between raising a family and making art into A Man Puts on a Play, a world premiere piece that reveals just how hard Amadeo has been working. He is the show’s playwright, director, producer, designer and one of its key cast members. No wonder his wife Katie (well, an exaggerated and fictionalized version of her, voiced by her) complains in a phone call that he’s never home.
A Man Puts on a Play is really a meta play about the craziness, camaraderie and tensions of getting a play just right for opening night.
If you’re an avid theatergoer, you may have had the experience of being held outside a theater until minutes before show time as a director frantically tries to perfect one key moment. Or you may have noticed the smell of wet paint, a sign that the set wasn’t finished until moments before you took your seat. But I’ll wager you’ve never seen anything quite like the first act of A Man Puts on a Play.
Enter Naked Stage’s home at Barry University’s Pelican Theatre and you can’t help noticing that there’s no set, just bare black walls. The paraphernalia of rehearsal/set construction is piled up in front of the stage (a table, power tools and such), and the fiction is that the company had to strike the set because of a high-security event on campus. Amadeo and his crew have just one frantic hour to reassemble a deconstructed attic before the show is to begin.
So what you get with A Man Puts on a Play is really two shows: the intense, improvised-seeming process of putting up that onstage attic, complete with lights and props; then the volatile family drama performed after intermission.
The set assembly involves actor-crew members Shawn Burgess, Stephanie Meskauskas, Ricardo Redd, Victor Rodriguez, Kaitlin Sarnacki, Jake Tompkins and, of course, Amadeo. Actors Andy Quiroga and Kathleen Robiou, who perform the second-half play with Amadeo, walk in and out of the frenzy, but those whose work on a show is behind the scenes finally get some stage time. The first part is tightly timed and at least partially scripted, but the novelty does eventually wear off, and you get antsy for a real play to begin.
Once it does, Amadeo doesn’t disappoint. He has crafted a one-act about long-estranged, competitive brothers. Joe (Quiroga) believes his feckless younger brother Tony (Amadeo) ruined him financially and caused the stresses that seem to be pulling his family apart. Joe’s high school senior daughter Georgia (Robiou) wants the brothers to put their feud behind them – to put family first. Though a few plot elements are underdeveloped or a bit too tidy, Amadeo has written juicy parts for himself and the other actors, particularly the intense, explosive Quiroga.
In A Man Puts on a Play, Amadeo supplies an engaging, voyeuristic look at the satisfactions and tradeoffs of the creative process. If you want to see what that process looks like on speed, check out Naked Stage’s 24-Hour Theatre Project, which will involve some 50 of the region’s finest playwrights, directors, actors and behind-the-scenes theater artists creating, rehearsing and performing short plays in just a little over a day. Though it’s a different animal, 24-Hour Theatre makes the Man Puts on a Play gang look like slackers.