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Last night to see I’M FINE at Alleyway Theatre (bad dates for the senior set)

THE BASICS:  I’M FINE, the world premiere of the play written and directed by Neal Radice, starring Ray Boucher, Emily Yancey, James Cichocki, Joyce Stilson closes tonight, Saturday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (852-2600). www.alleyway.com Runtime: a little over two hours with one intermission. Soft drinks available.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Mike, an older middle aged truck driver is recently widowed and lonely and is tired to saying, when asked how he’s doing, “I’m fine.” So he is beginning to explore the world of on-line dating, assisted with some minor reluctance by his daughter Allison but encouraged by his psychologist, Dr. Knoller, who sees this as a healthy way to move beyond his grief, and very much aided and abetted by his blue-collar friend Fred. Joyce Stilson plays all three different “bad dates.”

Four actors take on seven roles, with the admirable Joyce Stilson portraying the first three women in Mike’s new life.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Four actors take on seven roles, with the admirable Joyce Stilson portraying the first three women in Mike’s new life. Mike is played with perhaps just a touch (but only a touch) too much self-deprecating self-awareness, but, in all honesty, I can’t think of a better Buffalo actor to play the role. Emily Yancey is fine as the daughter, never out of character, doing exactly what supporting roles are supposed to do. Good job, everyone.

James Cichocki & Raymond Boucher | Photo Credit: Zach Hakes

But I would like to give a special kudo to James Cichocki and here’s why. He plays both Fred, the high-school educated truck driving friend, but also plays Dr. Knoller, the psychologist. When he is Dr. Knoller I had to look at my program to see who the “other actor” was. It was Cichocki. And that happened twice! The Alleyway has a fine tradition of actors coming out to the lobby after the play and I was able to ask him how he did it. He said that playing the doctor was easy. He just used his normal, educated, cultured voice in the lower registers. Playing Fred was a challenge, staying consistent. Well, it worked.

Ray Boucher and Emily Yancey

My problem with the play is the problem every humorist or stand-up comic has. Where do you find that sweet spot between dumbing down and being too hip for the room? Where do you use stereotypes to move the story along quickly and when do they become overused? While I admit that there were a number of LOL laugh lines, a lot of the play felt a little forced. Too often it missed my sweet spot. But, your results may differ. The audience on the night I went was very appreciative, so, as they say, what do I know?

Lead image – Joyce Stilson | Photo Credit – Zach Hakes

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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