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Light Up the Sky at Little Lake

It’s as much fun as You Can’t Take It With You

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The most curious part of the evening I spent at Little Lake Theatre was wondering how I’d gotten to 2016 without ever having seen Moss Hart’s Light Up the Sky. He wrote this backstage comedy back in 1948, and I’ve been reviewing theater for about 30 years; it’s inconceivable this Little Lake production is the first anyone’s done in Pittsburgh during that time. It’s as much fun as Hart’s most produced play, You Can’t Take It With You (which he wrote with George Kaufman), and has a much smaller cast and easier production demands.

Well, nobody ever said anything in the theater makes sense.

And that’s what Light Up the Sky is about. We’re in Boston for the try-outs of a new play called The Time Is Now. There’s the regular show personnel, i.e. director, writer, producer, star and a few others — the producer’s wife, the star’s mother and husband, etc.

The first act takes place an hour before curtain up. There’s unspoken fear the play is a big, fat bomb, but everyone’s all bluster and theatrical bonhomie. Act II, immediately after the final curtain, reveals The Time Is Now to be even worse than imagined. For direct revelation of character, there’s nothing like a theatrical flop to bring out the worst (and hysterically funny) behavior in show people.

But there’s a twist in the third act and — this only happens in the theater — things end happily.

Director Lora Oxenreiter and company have fun lampooning these show-biz types and obviously share Hart’s great love for them. I do wish the production moved faster; there’s a deliberate nature to the pacing that stifles some of the laughs. And everyone needs to up the stakes for his or her character; these people should be ready to explode. (The clue’s in the title, after all.) The ages of the actors don’t seem to match their roles, but Ashley Rice is fun as the diva, and Terry Westwood roars with the best of them as the producer. John O’Reilly brings gravitas as a visiting friend, and Barbara Harrold and Joyce Miller get all the laughs as a pair of barracking biddies.

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