Review: The Pot Boiler, The Actor’s Nightmare


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The Pot Boiler by Alice Gerstenberg and The Actor's Nightmare by Christopher Durang were featured in Theatre Most Absurd: A Performance of Two Comic One-Acts at HCC Southwest which ran Nov. 19 – 23, directed by HCC drama instructor Katherine Snider.

Alyssa Foley, Editor

Houston Community College Southwest Drama Department featured The Pot Boiler by Alice Gerstenberg and The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang in their Theatre Most Absurd: A Performance of Two Comic One-Acts production which ran Nov. 19 – 23, directed by HCC drama instructor Katherine Snider. The Pot Boiler was comical while The Actor’s Nightmare was hilarious and intellectually satisfying.

The action in The Pot Boiler takes place during a theater dress rehearsal. As the actors are striving to say their lines right and come out on cue, the play’s Author and production Director Thomasina Pinikles Sud (Ali’cia Clark) continues to re-write the play, changing both their lines and the actors’ cues. The Director’s rage and frustration was entirely convincing. Yelling at the actors and crying at their incompetence made her appear to be a tyrannical and mildly insane boss anyone would love to hate.

George Spelvin’s (Joshua Cage Tuttle) nightmare, The Actor’s Nightmare, consisted of him being pushed on stage to fill-in for one of the greatest American stage actors of all time. He is an accountant, not an actor. George does not even know what play he’s in, much less know his lines.

The actors in The Pot Boiler and George in The Actor’s Nightmare‘s had seemingly terrible acting, which is ironically what made their acting excellent. They were playing the role of bad actors in The Pot Boiler and George’s character in The Actor’s Nightmare was thrust on stage without knowing how to act at all. When the actors were on their break in The Pot Boiler, they stopped playing their character’s character in a rehearsal and acted completely different, showing their character’s true personalities. This was particularly true of the heroine Miss Ivory (Elaine Weisburg). She shifted from using overly stylized graceful gestures and holding pristine posture to reclining in an armchair and waving off another character. Meanwhile, in The Actor’s Nightmare, George’s sincere, but failing effort to act onstage made the audience forget that he was actually an actor playing someone who could not act.

The Pot Boiler Director’s costume reflected her mental state aptly. She had bits of script pinned on her coat to be used at a later time. This reinforced the fact that her script writing was disorganized and written at the spur of the moment. George’s Hamlet garb appeared grotesquely out of place, like everything else in his hysterical nightmare.

For The Pot Boiler, the play’s set was the set of theater rehearsal. The mismatched table and chairs were placeholders for the actors to rehearse with. It allowed the actors and the Director plenty of space to rehearse and block the play. Each actor had a pocket sized book of the script which they pulled out when the Director berated them for not following their lines. The Actor’s Nightmare had a single piece of scenery for every part of George’s dream except for his soliloquy. A palm tree gave a tropical touch for the Private Lives scene and trash barrels indicated that he was acting in Checkmate. The piecemeal scenery in The Actor’s Nightmare helped covey how much reality was missing from George’s dream.

Ali’cia Clark’s portrayal of the Director may have been enough to instill some sense of gratitude in the audience right before Thanksgiving that at least they do not have Thomasina Pinikles Sud as their boss. Witnessing George Spelvin’s nightmare triggered some self-reflection. Have you ever had something similar to an actor’s nightmare?

Cast of Characters:

The Pot Boiler: Thomasina Pinikles Sud, the author (Ali’cia Clark), Harold Wouldby, the novice (Oscar Lazo), Mr. Ivory, the father (D’Andre Glover), Mr. Ruler, the hero (Joshua Cage Tuttle), Miss Ivory, the heroine (Elaine Weisburg), Mr. Inkwell, the villain (Andy Flores), Mrs. Pencil, the vampire (Gary Bryn Snider), and Gus, the Stagehand (Rahul Bosamia).

The Actor’s Nightmare: George Spelvin (Joshua Cage Tuttle), Meg (Chantrelle Williams), Sarah Siddons (Haley Herebia), Ellen Terry (Jessica Cervantes), Henry Irving (Andy Flores), Executioner (Alex Silverstein).