Aug 12, 2019
by Jeanie K. Smith , San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Tucked away in a converted warehouse in a Napa business/industrial area is a gem of a theatre producing quality shows for those willing to make the short hop. Lucky Penny Productions, the brainchild of co-founders Barry Martin and Taylor Bartolucci, has been going strong for ten years now, mounting classics, contemporary works and musicals for delighted audiences.The Tasting Room, a revival from 2018 written by Martin himself, showcases some of the company’s associate artists and delivers happy hilarity that locals will especially appreciate.
That’s because it’s set right here in wine country, in the tasting room of a small vineyard owned and run by the Lusch family (pronounced “Loosh,” of course), currently managed by two sisters— Emily (Danielle DeBow) and Becca (Taylor Bartolucci). Their efforts to keep the winery afloat despite lackluster reviews and sluggish sales are aided by expert wine-seller Tony (Barry Martin). Shady sales tactics are tolerated in favor of a bottom line that isn’t at rock bottom.
A dreary day is turned upside down with the entrance of Sid Taylor (Michael Scott Wells), who reveals he’s a wine writer employed by the famous reviewer Elbert Fleeman (Michael Ross), a harsh critic who has the power to make or break wineries— and who’s due to arrive that very day. Suffice to say that Fleeman’s visit fuels the second half of the play, with secrets revealed, histories revised, romance begun, and many wines poured, all amid amusing sight gags, witty dialogue, and lots of fun.
Martin’s script is filled with clever local references and wine-related jargon, but you don’t need to be local or wine savvy to appreciate the humor and enjoy the well-acted comedy.DeBow and Bartolucci are credible sisters with delightfully differing personalities and ambitions, and the actors are quite adept comediennes. Martin is both believable and over-the-top wacky as slightly raunchy and unscrupulous Tony. Tim Setzer does several rowdy appearances as a dim-witted wine country tourist, adding to the hilarity. And Wells provides charming buffoonery as the nerdy but kinda sweet “loser” Sid. Ross has the requisite age and gravitas for his weighty character, but fails to meet the energy level of the other characters, and misses comic opportunities.
April George’s lighting design signals “serious” moments, and aids in the fun. Martin also serves as scenic designer, capturing a small and somewhat nondescript tasting room with generic wine country souvenirs. The cast, all reprising roles from the premier production last year, clearly relishes their interactions on stage, having a good time sharing the play’s merriment with audiences.
You too can be one of those happy people, spending a couple of hours laughing and enjoying yourself at Lucky Penny.
Don’t delay— the run ends August 18.
The Tasting Room by Barry Martin
Presented by Lucky Penny Productions through August 18, 2019
Thu at 7:00pm, Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm
Photos Courtesy Lucky Penny Productions
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