Doug Harris talks “It’s Only A Play” at the George Street Playhouse


By Charles Paolino

originally published: 11/28/2021

One reviewer once complimented Doug Harris, who has a starring role in George Street Playhouse’s new production of It’s only a game, for its “soft charm”.

Harris believes the reviewer “must have been allowed to drink inside the theater.”

The public can draw their own conclusions about this after seeing Harris in the Terrence McNally comedy, which Harris is doing on George Street for the second time this year from November 30 to December 19.

It’s only a game was the closing production of George Street’s “virtual season,” a performance series sparked by the COVID pandemic that has darkened theaters across the United States for more than a year.

All but one of the plays in this series, which are streamed for home viewing, were recorded in the spacious home of a member of the board of directors of the theater company, but It’s only a game was put on a stage at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, the new home on George Street.

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The comedy takes place on an opening night on Broadway at the Manhattan townhouse of a wealthy woman who is producing a show for the first time herself.

All the action takes place in the producer bedroom upstairs as guests and uninvited guests party below. Characters with varying levels of interest in the show that just opened – including the producer, the playwright, his supposed best friend, the director, the female lead, a critic, and a locker room “boy” (Harris ) – come and go while waiting for reviews of The golden egg.

In what one reviewer described as “a New York cartoon,” these characters reveal their ambitions and weaknesses in a dialogue studded with insider gags about familiar Broadway figures and on Broadway itself.

The new George Street production is the same play as the virtual version, of course, and it will be performed on the same set developed by David L. Arsenault with four actors who were not in the virtual production.

But now Harris said, “We have a live audience, which is the biggest change. When you were shooting for the stage in this hybrid version, you didn’t have to plan to laugh; there was no space for it. In this version, we explore what makes theater interesting – the interaction with the audience – making sure everything is clear to the audience.

There are a lot of props and gags in this show, Harris said, and there is an urgent need for the directing to allow audiences to see and “receive” all of this.

It’s only a game has the inherent ingredients of the stuffing, including multiple exits and multiple entries and an ensemble sometimes inhabiting the stage at the same time.

Harris, who is also a playwright, said the complicated thing about pranking is that it has to be precise in terms of the timing, imagery, and placement of the performers.

“Everything has to be perfectly calibrated to have the effect you want,” he said. The goal, he said, is to perform the play so well that the audience experiences “deliberately calibrated chaos”, not real, uncontrollable chaos.

Doug Harris talks about this

Harris’ character in this controlled chaos is locker room lackey Gus P. Head, who is the classic fanatic of the outdoors aspiring to a career in the theater.

“I’ve played several different versions of a golden retriever on stage,” he said with a laugh, “and that character would fit into that category. A lot of comedies can be biting and sour and alienating, but these characters have openness and kindness to them. They are kind and generous and also hilarious; I like to play them.

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If a reviewer finds a “soft charm” in Harris’ performance, Harris might not know it because, he said, he’s not keen on reading reviews.

“It’s only because I know it’s gonna work or not,” he said, “and there’s nothing I can do about a review once it’s there. “

Not that he rejects the reviews in themselves: “I read them for other plays. He’s a really cool medium.

Harris has movie credits in addition to his stage work, and he will be seen in Scary action, a film currently in post-production.

The title comes from a remark made by Albert Einstein about a certain phenomenon in the behavior of subatomic particles.

But whatever. This film is what Harris described as “a strange time travel comedy”.

“A group of really great artists wanted to film this project,” he said, “and I was excited to be a part of it.”

The cast includes Lindsey Nicole Chambers (Julia Budder), Greg Cuellar (Frank Finger), Doug Harris (Gus P. Head), Mark Junek (James Wicker), Kristine Nielsen (Virgina Noyes), Patrick Richwood (Peter Austin), Triney Sandoval (Ira Drew). The production is directed by Colin Hanlon and Kevin Cahoon.

George Street Theater House performs at the New Brunswick Cultural Center, located at 11 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling 732-246-7717.

To learn more about Charles Paolino, visit his blog.


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