Theater Review: “The Boy Who Was Woody Allen,” Starring James Phelps
Anyone looking to broaden their awareness of the work and mind of film director and actor Woody Allen has a more-than-modest selection of documentaries and biographies to choose from. Filmmakers, critics, and academics are regularly seeking to impress upon us their knowledge of this notoriously private man, and on this point, The Boy Who Was Woody Allen is no different. However, this production offers an original and alternative story of the iconic filmmaker, although one that is not entirely convincing.
The play is largely narrated by the titular character, John O’Leary, a 6’3″ Catholic teen who, after an epiphany, informs his school career’s officer that his life ambition is to become Woody Allen. And this he does, after convincing his mother, marrying a lesbian goth, and become a stand-up comedian. But as fame and success come his way, his muse may not be quite who he thought.
Pun heavy and reliant upon an audience with a decent awareness of Woody Allen’s filmography, the play has some entertaining moments, but more often than not, they fall short of genuine comedy. True absurd gems such as the moose at the party are overshadowed by jokes that are stretched far too thinly, and the songs, despite being catchy, feel largely tacked on last minute.
The cast generally does their best with the script and with direction that seems limited at best. James Phelps, of Potter fame, makes a convincing stage debut maintaining momentum – and the accent – through long sections of speech. The constant multi-rolling allows for cast members Carrie Marx and Fliss Russell to make their mark, whereas others are left a little exposed by the rapid changes.
Overall, the show makes for a mildly entertaining evening. Given the time to develop, The Boy Who Was Woody Allen certainly feels like a play to watch.