Home Beauty recipe Review: Pride Arts’ Tommy on Top Has the Stuffing Recipe, But It’s Slightly Undercooked

Review: Pride Arts’ Tommy on Top Has the Stuffing Recipe, But It’s Slightly Undercooked


I’m a huge fan of British comedy and in particular of a master of the genre, John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. This show is an example of farce, done brilliantly. Basil Fawlty is an unlikely character trying to run an upscale inn. Basil is always plotting to get the big score and he’s surrounded by crazy employees, goofy permanent residents, a very lost Spanish butler/waiter and his wife, who is always cleaning up his mess. Tommy on top at at thePride Arts Center is the work of British playwright Chris Woodley, who wrote for a popular British series East Enders. Woodley gave Tommy on top all the ingredients of the classic stuffing. There are unlikely characters, dramatic entrances and exits, rude jokes, body noises and copious amounts of bodily fluids – not the good kind. This production, helmed by Jay Españo, takes a long time to get up to speed, then falters trying to maintain that breakneck pace.

The premise of Tommy on top is that a closeted gay actor is an Academy Award shoo-in and his rude manager is trying to keep him in the closet until he gets that little golden statuette. Ryan Cason plays Tommy Miller. He is a handsome and quite buff movie star, but fails to succeed in comedy. Miller’s interpretation is more fish out of water than farce. Tommy’s boyfriend, George, is played by Patrick Gosney and he has the timing and cultivated ability to be funny and funny. Caitlyn McNichol is pretty good at playing Molly, Tommy’s booze sister, who’s also a beauty vlogger with a mind in the gutter. McNichol is the understudy for this role and has time to switch from body-in-the-closet fodder to twisted soliloquies about gender roles and the ideal society. I think she has the best part and she plays it well.

Patrick Gosney and Ryan Cason. Photo by Marisa KM.

Brian Boller plays Tommy’s manager, Eddie, who is a gay supporter of the 45th President and claims to be a Republican. That alone is a wacky concept. Boller pulls off some great moves from the Three Stooges while hurling dastardly epithets at George. This is where a cultural disconnect between the UK and the US comes in. Eddie hates George because he’s Irish, which is more British and doesn’t quite translate to prank in the United States. If George was from Central America, the jokes might have flown. Anderson’s character becomes the focus of the multiple doors and off-stage noises that are essential to this kind of comedy.

Beth Johnson stars as mega-agent Judy Jenkins who sets out to offer to represent Tommy and deal with the crisis of a potential exit. Johnson is too low-key for the role, and there’s no oomph to the big punchline when she throws a character onto a balcony as revenge for fucking her ex-husband. The pace almost slows to a crawl and there’s nothing outrageous about his acting or his reactions to other characters. Blythe Butler brings some punch to the role of Kiki Lopez, a celebrity blogger who has pictures of Tommy and George in compromising positions.

Brian Boller, Patric Gosney and Ryan Cason. Photo by Marisa KM.

Despite a beautiful decor also designed by director Españo, Tommy on top doesn’t hit that high speed of pacing to pull off dialogue, slamming doors, and off-stage sound effects. A really great flatulence joke fell flat because Johnson’s reaction was so sweet/haughty. The body thrown off the balcony was barely funny the first time around, but should have been even more hilarious the second time around. Adding a startled cat noise was good but not enough. The sight gags were off and even the ball drop was unbalanced. Why couldn’t they fall out of the middle like confetti did? Where was the promised disco dang ball? Tommy on top is a pretty nice way to spend an evening during Pride Month. However, they either have to tighten it up to bust out the jokes and sight gags, or serve drinks to the audience and get them in on the joke.

Tommy on top plays Thursday through Sunday through July 17 at the Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets are $35 with a $5 discount for seniors and students. Pride Arts Center requires the audience to be masked at all times in the theater. Mask up and happy Pride!

For more information on this and other productions, visit www.theatreinchicago.com.

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