OCT - NOV 2014

Director: Adam Immerwahr

Playwright: Theresa Rebeck

Set Design: Eugene Lee

Costume Design: Kristin Isola

Lighting Design: Stephen Strawbridge

Sound Design: Nick Kourtides

Choreography: Sam Pinkleton

Stage Manager: Alison Cote

With: Danielle Skrastaad and J.D. Taylor

Theresa Rebeck’s three-person comedy is, nominally, a one-act comedy about a frazzled day of rehearsal with relationship issues; the understudy used to be engaged to the stage manager, and the actor he’s understudying is an action movie star.

But beneath its surface, the piece -- whose play within the play is a ‘lost masterpiece of Kafka’s’ - is about the vagaries and difficulties of the artist’s career, and the beauty of making art in the face of adversity.

The term ‘Kafkaesque,’ often bandied about loosely,

is fairly apt in describing a life in the theater: a complex and bizarre quality indeed. In The Understudy, the eponymous character has three long, funny asides to the audience, all of which circle about the illogical nature of the theatre. In the last one, he just flat-out says “Acting is great -- when you get to do it -- but it’s also incoherent.” And goodness, if that ain’t the truth.

Luckily, the play skips lightly with that, and the final scene has the three characters, in the face of the show closing for unfair reasons decided by the shadowy powers that be, practicing their art to preserve their life, like Josephine the Singer does in Kafka’s strange little mouse short story.

Opening Night with (from left) director Adam Immerwahr, Danielle, and J.D.

Roxanne tries to impress upon Harry his status in the show: “You have no rights; you’re an actor. You’re not even an actor. You’re an understudy.”

Harry takes his own sweet-ass time getting into character.

For more on this production, check out the McCarter’s production-specific page; and watch the trailer here.