Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The 90-minute play is set in Vance's dressing room in 1960 as she is preparing for the taping of the very last episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," the follow-up series of specials that aired over several years after "I Love Lucy" went off the air in 1957. As Vance speaks to her unseen therapist to discuss a recent nightmare she had, she thinks about her past and reminisces about the highs and lows of being a household name, especially the lows since most people think she's the character she plays, and ponders if she should accept the offer to portray Ethel once again in a spin-off series called "Fred & Ethel."
Powers' play is interesting, but not always intriguing. Hearing about Vance's past growing up in a small town in Kansas, where her religious mother disapproved of her interest to become an actress, fleshes out the details in Vance's life and there are some fun moments when she recites classic lines and talks about memorable moments from the "I Love Lucy" series. By having Vance recount many memories and important moments from her past, Powers provides the audience with details they may not be aware of; however, all of this information would already be known by her therapist from previous sessions, which makes the theatrical device of having her talk to him seem stilted and unnatural. There is also a repetitiveness in the dialogue, which makes it seem like Powers was padding his play, along with some sections that aren't that clear, as well as continual talk of the difficulties she had with Ball and Crawley which also seem to only be there to stretch the play out to 90 minutes. While Vance would never again work with Crawley, she did go on to co-star with Ball on two subsequent TV series after the date in which this play is set, which makes her negative comments about working with Ball ring less true.
Lynn Golden may not look like Vance but she embodies her spirit, style of speech, and the charisma that anyone who has watched "I Love Lucy" is familiar with, all of which help to provide layers to this well-known woman. She makes Vance likable and colorful but also a woman with depth and darkness, someone that Golden makes you care about.
Dan Ashlock Jr.'s direction is good. He has Golden occasionally move around the small backstage dressing room set which provides some variety in the production and is quite helpful for a one-woman show where the actor has no one else to play off of. The challenge of fronting an entire show on your own appeared to slightly impact Golden at the performance I attended where there were a few quiet moments and pauses where she seemed to be searching for her next line of dialogue. Fortunately, since Vance is thinking back on her past and pondering her future, these moments didn't stick out as much as they would have in a show that wasn't so introspective or one with several actors on stage. There were also many missed light cues and odd lighting at the performance I attended, which hopefully will be corrected with more performances.
There have been numerous plays and musicals that focus on backstage drama and strained working relationships. While Sidekicked is a good play, there is too much repetition, padding, and unclear moments in it to make it a great play. Fortunately, Lynn Golden's strong performance overcomes many of my quibbles and helps to memorialize this beloved character actress who had a very sufficient life.
Sidekicked runs through May 14, 2023, at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre at Fashion Square, 7014 East Camelback Road, Suite 0586, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, please visit desertstages.org or call 480-483-1664.
Director: Dan Ashlock, Jr.