By Christopher Heide
Stolen money, passports, travel brochures and identical briefcases... Perfect ingredients for confusion and mayham. Two bank officials, Willy Nicholas and Peter Colton, unwittingly involve others in their efforts to retrieve a stolen loot and flee the country. Everyone involved is mistaken about everyone else's motives and loyalties, and doom and shame and prison stare them all in the face.
Jack Sharkey's "Spinoff" is a quintessential screwball comedy. Filled with some wacky misunderstandings and whiplash plot twists, you would think you were watching a live performance of a classic episode of FRIENDS. Rapid fire dialogue and over-the-top character performances, ala Gilmore Girls, helps keep a frenetic pace and energy throughout the entire production.
There is no weak link in this intimate staging; all six actors display excellent comedic timing and adaptability throughout the zany, intriguing world that Spinoff presents. With a superbly selected mix of veteran community theater actors and fresh faces, the cast stars Jay Wesley Cochran, Anthony Morrow, Melissa Morrow, Sarah Larson, Janine Snavely and Skyler Haines.
According to Melissa Morrow, "Spinoff" presents "a plot unlike any other with twists and turns around every corner; manipulative progress along with steamy love connections and betrayal portrayed by a talented cast full of wit and charm."
Staged at the relatively small Everett Music Hall, "Spinoff" is a production that appeals to a plethora of personalities. While some small-scale productions can buckle under the weight of its own intimacy, the actors of "Spinoff" thrive on the close contact with the audience. Every actor seems to be having the time of his or her life onstage, as if they were all making their Broadway debut.
This is a notion emphatically shared by the cast. "In a small cast in a small theater you really get to experience the true art and passion it takes to be an actor and produce something as a team. You feel a sense of accomplishment knowing you made someone smile," said Skyler Haines.
Thematically, the show tackles topics that deftly resonates with modern society. Through all of the Shakespearian antics, "Spinoff" purports a surprising philosophic conundrum; what is true paradise? Is it on a beach in Rio with a suitcase filled with money or is it truly at home with the people you love? According to Melissa Morrow, the answer is quite simple:
"Something worth getting (a life in paradise) was worth more in the taking (stealing money/ the fear of prison), but the return was gratifying (knowing that they had paradise all along at home with each other)."
Spinoff is a clever, intriguing heist and a stand-out triumph for the Reunion Theatre Group.