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Funny and farcical, but true

"It's Only a Play" is a play about a play that's just had its opening night on Broadway. As everyone involved tries to keep up their spirits as they wait for the reviews — especially the New York Times' (which can spell life or death for careers) — they finally fly into hysterics while attempting to upgrade their work to suit a savage critic.

The drama in "It's Only a Play" may seem like farce, but it's what really happens to a theater company.

"Many see it as farce, but the playwright, Terrence McNally, says it's closer to a documentary," notes Jeannine Grizzard, artistic director for Ashland Contemporary Theater.

Performances of ACT's production are set for 8 p.m. Friday through Saturday, Nov. 18-19, Monday, Nov. 21, Friday through Sunday, Nov. 25-27, Monday, Nov. 28, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, and Monday, Dec. 5. Matinees will be offered at 2 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, at Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road, Ashland.

Success on the Great White Way is deadly-serious stuff, says the show's director, Evalyn Hansen.

"But this is thigh-slapping hilarious, flamboyant but truthful," Hansen says. "They're in a pressure cooker in the producer's home, waiting for reviews and everything hangs in the balance."

As the scathing reviews are read, they flay and eviscerate everyone, especially the bipolar playwright, Peter Austin, played by Jeff Golden.

The snippets of doom from critics certainly were collected by McNally from real life over the past many years, and they work like toxic fluid. But before long, egos are set aside and you see "a very heartwarming ending, with natural creativity flowering as people work together," Grizzard says.

Aside from Golden's wacky playwright, the play features a pill-popping actress (Reanne Lewis), a Pollyanna producer (Grizzard), a bad-boy director (Peter Wickliffe) and a philosophizing cab driver (Mabrie Ormes).

Tickets cost $15, $12 for seniors and $8 for students. A pay-what-you-can performance will be offered Monday, Nov. 21. Tickets are available at Paddington Station in Ashland, Grocery Outlet in Medford, www.ashlandcontemporarytheatre.org, by calling 541-646-2971 or at the door.

The characters of Terrence McNally's 'It's Only a Play' react to newspaper reviews during a scene from Ashland Contemporary Theatre's production. - Photo by Troy Goossen