The Book of Liz - Play review
The following is an exerpt from the Lexington Herald Leaders review of Amy and David Sedaris' "The Book of Liz"
By Tedrin Blair Lindsay Contributing Culture Critic
'The Book of Liz'
What: Amy and David Sedaris' comedy, presented by Balagula Theatre
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 28-30, Dec. 4-7
Where: Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade
Tickets: $15, $10 students; call (859) 259-2754.
This year, Balagula Theatre is giving us the gift of comic relief from holiday stress with its production of The Book of Liz by Amy and David Sedaris.
It is a silly play tracing the adventures of a woman from an isolated Amish-type community who runs away to a modern city. The Sedarises have cobbled together rather random experiences for their heroine, and they have treated the material much more mildly than they could have, but at its heart, The Book of Liz is a sweet entertainment about finding your place both in the world and in your own estimation.
As Sister Elizabeth Dunderstock, Karyn Czar brings an earthy vigor to her interactions with the other characters, cagily underplaying the fish-out-of-water shtick in favor of making Liz a real people person. As a result, her observations of others and her battles with herself ring truer for the audience than if she had tried to play them for the situational comedy. She is very funny, but she is touchingly human besides.
Three other actors — Edmund Desiato, Patrick Joel Martin and Melissa Rae Wilkeson — play several roles apiece in the show, all portrayed with broad strokes, and all hilarious. Each of them gets a turn at playing a member of the ascetic sect, an employee of a restaurant run entirely by recovering alcoholics, and assorted other characters — with varying degrees of success with accents. They each excel especially at their sect-member impersonations, and Wilkeson, a versatile performer, contributes a couple of memorable cameos, as a quack doctor desperate for a drink and as a misunderstood, worldly woman with a good heart.
The set is functional, but a long wall of books representing a public library for scenes that frame the show (a weak device in this instance) becomes distracting after a while because it has no bearing on the rest of the play but dominates it visually throughout. On Sunday's opening night, the light cues needed tightening, to an embarrassing degree.
Ryan Case has directed the comedy with a whimsical touch and a light-hearted tone that work well for the material.