Arts & Culture


Personal troubles affect the screen lives of actors in ‘Back After This Break.’
Personal troubles affect the screen lives of actors in ‘Back After This Break.’ PHOTO BY GARY ADAMS

There’s trouble brewing on the set of “My Favorite Wife,” America’s favorite television show.

Sitcom stars Tom and Tina Trevor, who play happily married couple Larry and Linda Lopresti, are experiencing some relationship troubles. Their co-stars can’t stop squabbling, and a scandal-sniffing gossip columnist is on the prowl.

“Back After this Break,” the Great American Melodrama’s latest production, takes audiences behind the scenes at a Los Angeles TV studio in 1965. It’s a clever send-up of “I Love Lucy,” written by longtime Melodrama scribe Neal LaVine.

Onscreen, Tom (Chuck McLane) and Tina (Katie Worley) seem like the perfect couple — a lovable goofball with a comically strong Italian accent, and his sweet, funny, somewhat klutzy wife. Behind the scenes, however, the romance has gone out of their relationship.

Tom’s been seen squiring Dusty Springfield around town, and Tina attended the premiere of “The Sound of Music” on the arm of Warren Beatty. What’s worse, their off-screen feud is starting to affect “My Favorite Wife.”

The couple’s co-stars, who play neighbors Paul and Eileen Muntz, have troubles of their own.

Bill Chumley (Jim Shine) is a former theater great fallen on hard times, and vaudeville sweetheart Wilma Wendall (Breanne Murphy McLane) has been hitting the bottle.

As director Steve Stukerman (Jim McCaffrey) observes, “We can’t seem to make it through rehearsal without a meltdown.…This constant bickering and fighting needs to stop.”

Stukerman has a point. After all, the cast and crew are set to tape the season finale of “My Favorite Wife” live, and nosy television critic Hilda Hepper (Suzy Newman) is trolling for fresh gossip. Even the slightest misstep could cost them their jobs.

Can the cast of “My Favorite Wife” survive to tape another season? Only time and a big dose of television magic can tell.

“Back After This Break” purposely blurs the lines between show business and real life, taking its cues from “I Love Lucy” co-stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s sometimes strained marriage. The now-famous feud between William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who played Fred and Ethel Mertz on the popular television show, also inspires some hilarious hijinks.

Rather than dwell on the difficulties of real-life relationships, however, the play keeps the mood relatively light. Audiences will delight in catching the many references to “I Love Lucy” and its predecessor, “My Favorite Husband” — including a nod to the famous “candy factory” episode, “Job Switching.”

“Back After This Break” is followed by the vaudeville revue “School Daze,” which finds the Melodrama cast preparing for another day at TGAM Elementary School.

Chuckles are plentiful as the oh-so- cute cast members practice their spelling words, serenade the lunch lady with “Hot Lunch” from “Fame” and pen a discombobulated book report on Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit.”

But the funniest moment comes when Newman delivers a lecture on the fine art of physical comedy — complete with comic pratfalls and a few well-placed cream pies.

Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.