|Posted by Elwin Green on January 31, 2013 at 5:05 AM|
How often do you can you catch a world premiere in your neighborhood? If you live in Homewood, all you have to do is stop by the auditorium of the Carnegie Library on Hamilton Avenue and take in the latest production for the Kuntu Repertory Theatre this weekend or next and enjoy a visit to “The Chelsea Arms.”
Composed, written and directed by Ernest McCarty, Jr., “The Chelsea Arms” is an entertaining vehicle to showcase the talents of well-known Pittsburgh performers along with a trio of newbies in an ensemble piece that harkens back to the heydays of musical theater.
The Chelsea Arms is a bit of a throw-back to the residence hotels that housed both aspiring and established thespians at various stages in their careers. This is where we meet Miss Schumpert (the building administrator/manager), Anna Sterbich, an actress wanting to reclaim the spotlight, Louis Gilchrist, a stage legend pondering his twilight years, Maria Hawkespeare, a touring performer and longtime Chelsea resident, and the ingénue, Lillie Ponds.
The tenants bond (to varying degrees) through their pursuit of applause and fame, they also share individual and common challenges and disappointments. The service provided by the Arms’ staff (bellmen, room service and being waited upon) cushion the blows and allow them to retain the status quo they long to relive. By way of a notice in an industry tabloid they learn that the Chelsea is to be sold to foreign interests and that they will be “homeless.” While they absorb the shock of the news, a new guest checks in: a prominent (and reviled) theater critic who’s reviews of the residents’ performances have been… detrimental to their respective careers.
The arrival of Jonathan Krackorne is an added indignity, especially to Anna and Louis who’ve had their stars tarnished by Krackorne’s pen.
McCarty’s production is a delight to watch and as most theatre-goers know, the initial production is just that and will be refined as it gains legs before audiences. Some of the transitions are rough and the production could benefit from a larger performance space, however, given those limitations (and thanks to a wonderful set design of Kenneth E. Ellis), this first run still makes its mark.
The talented cast is not to be denied. Stage veterans Etta Cox (Hawkespeare) and Charles Timbers (Louis Gilchrist) are excellent choices in their roles and their singing is rich and lush. Cheryl El Walker (Anna Sterbich) is spot on as the Nora Desmond of the residence, desperately seeking another close-up. Kim-El delivers a solid performance peeling the layers of Schumpert, an aspiring actress who never got her break, while Delana Flowers brings the hopeful optimism of a new talent striking out to make her mark in the business. Supporting players Adam Turner and Adonis Whitner are fun to watch as they work their multiple roles (which is never as easy as it may seem).
Remaining performances of "The Chelsea Arms" will be at 8pm, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, at the Homewood Library auditorium, 7101 Hamilton Ave. Tickets are $20, and are available at the door or at Dorsey's Records (412-731-6607).