Getting To Know Me, Getting To Know All About Me

By John Quinn

Broadway Onstage Live Theatre mainstay Cecelia Reuter Lesner turns playwright for the company's latest production, "You Just Have No Idea," a quirky fantasy that explores a woman's journey towards self-discovery. That's usually a lonely trip; on this one, the young lady has some thoroughly screwball guides.

Painfully passive, Annabelle (Jackie Bery) is making a whole-hearted effort to break out of her shell. Her therapist, Joanne (Elizabeth Rager), suggests she listen to her "inner voices" for clues to her undiscovered potential. Imagine her shock and disbelief when the voices in her head manifest themselves in human form; there's no way of ignoring what they have to say. The Ghosts of Unconscious Present set goals for Anabelle's improvement, particularly in standing up for herself. She takes on inattentive waiters and an absolute zero of a boyfriend (Ed Thomas) before confronting the greatest barrier to her breakout, her overbearing mother.

"A Christmas Carol" is vaguely referenced above, and "You Just Have No Idea" employs the Dickens plot device of otherwise disembodied entities appearing as spiritual guides. That's about all Lesner has borrowed - her script is very fresh and original. There's some redundancy that could be cleaned up, notably a metaphor based on the results of drinking both hard liquor and beer at the same sitting.

In fact, the playwright's only error may be too much caution. In this free-wheeling fantasy, the audience doesn't deserve a lot of detailed explanation - like what happens when the Id goes grocery shopping. Sometimes it's just wickedly fun to create an improbable situation and let the literal minded figure it out for themselves.

The heart and soul of "You Just Have No Idea" is the interplay between Annabelle and her inner selves, and the back-biting relationships those fragments share. Annie meets her ignored inner child, a fragile, 6-year-old boy, played by the stalwart and very adult John Arden McClure, clad in blue onesie pajamas - with duckys. He's horrified that her undiscovered assertiveness is personified by a loud, vulgar, middle-aged man (Patrick R. O'Lear).

It's easier to accept that deep in her psyche dwells an attractive party girl, aptly brought to life by Sarah Oravetz; it's a little harder to swallow, but no less rewarding, to find she's also harboring a tough biker chick - donning the leather and chains is Elizabeth Rager. What's the use of a fairy godmother whose magic wand is only for show? If it's Shirley Biggs-Urkshus, she can teach you that Whitney Houston was right: "Learning to love yourself/It is the greatest love of all."

Company producer and all-around guru Dennis Wickline returns to the director's chair, and has deftly filled the cast with some of Broadway Onstage's stock company. Strong ensembles form when the artists are familiar with each other's style. The newbie in the group is Jackie Bery, young in age but seasoned with experience; she hits the mark running and plays well with others.

There are still some rough patches in line reading, noticeable here because the dialogue is written for rapid-fire delivery.

Metro Detroit is maturing as an arts community, and the opportunities to catch original shows are increasing. We regret that Broadway Onstage Live, which frequently produced new plays, is closing its doors after its current 20th season. If your taste runs to whacky comedy, catch 'em while you can.


'You Just Have No Idea'

Broadway Onstage Live Theatre, 21517 Kelly Road, Eastpointe. 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday through Feb. 8. 1 hour, 50 minutes. $15-18. 586-771-6333.

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