A ‘Masterpiece of Comic Timing’

Published 9:29 am Thursday, February 7, 2019

The stage is covered with props. A well-used couch, a television showing Lassie, a wheelchair covered in duct tape and there sits the director. Jordan Stroud, a senior theater major at Longwood University and the play’s director, wanders around the stage, weaving around his actors as they read through their scripts. He isn’t sitting in the auditorium seats, making requests from afar but rather up onstage with the four actors in the play.

Written by Robert Caisley (“Happy,” “The Open Hand”), “A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing!” tells the story of a young playwright, Danny “Nebraska” Jones, attempting to create his next Broadway smash hit, and the producer, Jerry Cobb, and actors who have to deal with him in the process.

According to Caisley’s website, Cobb has enlisted Jones for an “all-expense-paid trip to paradise” by investing all his money into the success he envisions with Jones’ play. Cobb then discovers Jones’ battle with depression that brings the success of the play into question.

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“Considering that everyone is a main character, and everyone gets enough stage time to be important and to make a lasting impression on the audience, it is a lot more helpful that I get to spend more individual time,” said Stroud.

According to Erica Johnson, a sophomore theater education major who plays Nola Hart, with the play only having four characters, all characters must immerse themselves in the roles.

Stroud and his cast were able to video chat and talk with Caisley to learn more about the writing behind the play and its sense of humor.

“It was really cool to get his perspective on what we’re doing and to learn about the process. He said it only took him three days to write this show, which was mind-boggling to me,” said Aaron Burstein, a senior theater major, who plays Jones’s assistant Charlie Bascher.

It’s evident Stroud and his cast are determined to capture the light-hearted tone Caisley intended. At one point, to communicate the kind of intensity he wanted, he tells one of the actors to yell “like the teacher in that one angry vine.”

“We all know each other so well already that we’re able to speak the same language so that when Jordan (Stroud) says ‘Hey, I need you to give it more of this,’ he knows what he needs to say to get it through to me,” said Zoe Flippen, a sophomore theater major who plays Producer Jerry Cobb.

A request like that can help strengthen the bond between a director and their cast, and also help make sure that the intent is clear, so the actors can deliver things in just the right way to drive the joke home for the audience.

“Whenever the audience laughs, you feel a boost of like ‘Yeah, I’m doing it!’” said Erica.

“A Masterpiece of Comic Timing” runs from Feb. 20-24 at 7 p.m., with matinee shows at 2 p.m. on Feb. 23-24. For more information or to purchase tickets call (434) 395-2474 or visit boxoffice@longwood.edu.