Voice Lessons

Review by Willard Manus

Virginia (Laurie Metcalf) is a scatty, horny, wannabe singer who hopes vocal coach Nate (French Stewart) can help her make the transition from community theatre to the Broadway stage. Problem is, she's not only high maintenance but devoid of talent. Blissfully unaware of her own shortcomings, she throws enough money at Nate to make him abandon his principles and take her on as a pupil.

In VOICE LESSONS, now in a world-premiere run at the Zephyr Theatre, playwright Justin Tanner has great fun with this comic setup. The vocal lessons that follow are lessons from hell, with the babbling, egomaniacal, bizarrely-clad Virginia testing the patience and, eventually, sanity of the much-put-upon Nate. It doesn't take long for them to begin badgering and insulting each other, volleying cruel and spiteful wisecracks in rapid-fire fashion.

Things grow even worse when a third character, Sheryl (Maile Flanagan), is introduced. Sheryl is not only Ginnie's community-theatre rival but Nate's live-in girlfriend. This revelation not only puts Ginnie over the top but inspires her to take revenge on them both.

The slapstick VOICE LESSONS is co-directed by Tanner and Bart DeLorenzo and runs a fast, zingy sixty minutes. The actors, especially Metcalf, are superb, coaxing big laughs out of the audience just about every step of the way. (Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave. 323-960-7711 or plays411.com/voicelessons)