All I knew about Bruce Graham’s drama, STELLA AND LOU, was that television great, Rhea Perlman starred in the original 2013 Northlight Theatre production in Skokie, Illinois. My reason for going to see Dayton Theatre Guild‘s production was to watch one of my favorite actors, Geoff Burkman, in action.
Graham’s finely fashioned play could not have been better acted, nor directed. J. Gary Thompson gathered three committed actors, Geoff Burkman, Amy Taint, and Adam Clevenger to produce an intimate, dynamic atmosphere which was greatly enhanced by the natural thrust stage in the barely over 100 seat auditorium. At times it felt as though those of us in the audience were eavesdropping on this terrifically tight trio.
I’ve watched Geoff Burkman perform for over 25 years and he makes acting look so damned easy. I’ve worked with Geoff on two productions and I never felt as though I could keep up with him because even at the very start, Geoff’s character is already moving toward the production’s end. His smoothe deliveries always have the feeling of him walking across an iced-over pond with his audience always on edge never knowing just how thick the ice is; Geoff is just so confident as an actor and his choices seem to be more mystical than instinctual. His “Lou” is a combination of John Spencer (WEST WING) and Martin Crane (FRAZIER), and always, the definition Geoff stamps on each character he tackles.
Amy Taint… where has she been hiding? Her bio paragraph indicates she was quite busy in the 1970s but took some kind of break. I scratched my head all evening, wondering just how this evenly matched actress for Geoff Burkman could possibly take a break from performing. I was mesmerized by Ms. Taint’s pure naturalness and hope to see her in future productions. Stella was exceptionally 3-dimensional. Come on, Amy Taint, do more shows!
Adam Clevenger’s character offers a good deal of comedic relief, often balancing the still unsure drama manifesting in Act One between Lou and Stella. In fact, it was interesting to see how Graham’s structure was actually working. Fascinating. Adam could have been one of the regulars on CHEERS or ARCHIE’S PLACE and held his own against two venerable heavyweights.
It’s not surprising that Dayton Theatre Guild, now 72 years of bringing strong productions with celebrated works, many of which are not tackled by most community theatres, slammed another successful shot glass down on the counter with STELLA AND LOU.