Theatre Review: Stellar Cast turns ‘Something Intangible’ Into Something Memorable

Now playing at Richmond’s Firehouse Theatre is Bruce Graham’s ‘Something Intangible’ the somewhat fictionalized telling of the Disney brother’s life story. Instead of Mickey Mouse, there’s Petey Pup. Instead of ‘Fantasia’, here we have ‘Grandioso’, and instead of Walt and Roy Disney, we have Tony and Dale Winston. Tony is almost maniacal in his wish to just ‘get it right’, no matter if it means going thousands of dollars over budget and weeks past a deadline. Dale, the older brother and the ‘dime a dozen account’, wants to help his brother achieve his artistic dreams, he just wishes it could be done on budget.

The brother’s differences are clearly defined. Tony [Adrian Rieder] is almost like a pinball onstage, bouncing around his small office, climbing tables and chairs, doing whatever it takes to express the vision that he sees in his head, struggling to prove to his cautious brother that he has an idea for a full length film that will give him the respect he so craves and needs.

Billy Christopher Maupin, as Dale, gives one of the most subtle, understated and wondrous performances I have seen in quite a while. He says more with an aching look or a heavy sigh than some actors say with a two page monologue.

If an achingly subtle performance isn’t enough to pique your interest in this production, fear not. There are plenty of laughs. Frank Creasy appears in a dual role, one being the studio exec who must approve the financing for Tony’s crazy film that has classical music and almost no dialogue, Creasy’s other role as the gregarious Austrian conductor Meyerhoff is the real crowd pleaser though.¬†Meyerhoff dominates the second act and provides much needed comic relief before things get overwrought or too dark.

Rounding out the supporting cast are Lauren Leinhaas-Cook as Sonia, Dale’s analyst, a movie lover who dares Dale to admit how he really feels about his brother. Jay Welch plays Leo, an up and coming animator on Tony’s staff. Tony berates Leo at almost every turn, painting the genius in a none too flattering light.

My one quibble with this play is with the script. It’s obvious that this is about Disney, but, where is the line drawn between fact and fiction? I wish the story delved a bit deeper and dealt with some of the darker tendencies that drove Disney. That would have been a very intriguing path to send these characters down, but the script only hints at those topics slightly, and then it quickly moves on to the next laugh.

The script leaves a bit to be desired, but the cast are the reason to see this production during this final weekend. Maupin proves that less can be oh so much more, and Creasy’s Meyerhoff proves that more can be just right.

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Something Intangible, directed by Bill Patton. At The Firehouse Theatre Thursday April 14 thru Saturday April 16. Ticket info here.

–Barry
04.11.11