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Get a case of ‘Stage Fright’
by Nathan Orme
May 03, 2012 | 1543 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cecil Averett (left) and Kristina Harris perform in the TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada production of “Stage Fright.”
Cecil Averett (left) and Kristina Harris perform in the TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada production of “Stage Fright.”
RENO — When Dave Zybert, director of the play “Stage Fright” starting a two-weekend run on Friday, asked if I wanted to write a review of the production it seemed like a good idea until I watched it.

After that, I was afraid, very afraid.

“Stage Fright,” written by Charles Marowitz, is the story of acidic theater critic F.F. Charnick, who sees his many biting critiques of a particular theater actress come back to bite him. Since nearly everyone finds him or herself in a position to give or get criticism at some point, the trials faced by Charnick could be anyone’s — especially those of us who write about performances from time to time.

“The most important theme for the average theatergoer is the conflict created by the characters about ‘What is art?’ ” Zybert said. “More specifically, ‘Is taste reflected or created by a theater critic? Do we go to and approve of certain theaters and actors because we like them or because a critic tells us we should like them?’”

Rather than risk my own life and limb in case any of the three performers in this melodrama have gotten any ideas from the play, I will write about them as compassionately as possible. Kristina Harris, a Reno resident and self-titled all-around computer geek who works for Great Basin Internet Services, plays the role of Mitzi Crenshaw, a middle-aged actress who has been struggling to work on the stage for many years.

“In a lot of ways, Mitzi is a lot like I would have been if I had taken another turn in life or taken another road and gotten more bitter and less zen about some things,” Harris said.

Theater is her life, Harris explained of her character. So much so, that it could be the death of her adversary. Charnick is played by Sparks resident Cecil Averett, who is retired from the aerospace industry and now spends much of his time acting and directing in community theater. His character’s wit, normally reserved for skewering thespians, must be turned into a tool to save his life.

“This particular part is a really good one to play, especially for me because I like to think I’m not anything like this character,” said Averett, who described Charnick as “mean and nasty, quite frankly.”

Crenshaw’s husband, Denis Michaelson, is played by 26-year-old Brian Ault, who is made up convincingly to appear much older. Ault describes Denis as stoic and quiet but with his own kind of crazy.

“The broader philosophical tone of the whole play is intriguing as I’ve gone through it,” Ault said. “Kind of the basic fragility of people as a whole, not necessarily for the acting profession but fragile emotional states of we as a species. How we put on lovely little facades and one by one in really emotional states we see those facades break apart.”

“I think it’s a play that’s good for theater people,” Averett said, “because you can relate if you’d had any involvement in theater at all.”

The production runs May 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. and May 6 and 13 at 2 p.m. at the McKinley Arts & Culture Center, 925 Riverside Drive in Reno. The production is suitable for ages 16 and older. Ticket prices are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students. For reservations and more information, go to or call 284-0789.
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