Review: “Last Call” at Upstairs at the Henegar

"Last Call" at Upstairs at the Henegar

“Last Call” at Upstairs at the Henegar


Comic actress and improvisation coach Jessica Taylor reveals yet another side of her talents with her original play “Last Call,” on stage now at the intimate Upstairs at the Henegar venue.

Set in a nondescript bar in what you might call an “every town,” the comedy concerns bartender Hank (the always wonderful Pete Jacobsen), his waitress Lois Michelle McElvaine) and his cornucopia of quirky customers.

We get a good view of these characters as we, too, have been seated around cocktail tables and served drinks and peanuts.

There are a trio of wise cracking women (Donna Furfaro, Michelle Lee and Diana Taylor), each one once married to Hank; a bumbling salesman (Adam Lucker, so good to see him back on stage), a speech-impaired lost man (Jon Emmerich, the show’s co-creator), a film noir couple (Tori Smith and Doug Taylor), a cross-dressing EMT (the daring Rob Landers) and a quiet, enigmatic man (Joe Boasci).

Given Ms. Taylor’s ease with comedy, it’s no wonder that the funny lines come fast and furious. She’s got as great a flair with setting up rim shot jokes in her comic dialogue as she does double takes and pratfalls in her physical humor.

Rather than depend on a storyline with rising action, conflict, et al, Ms. Taylor, who also directs here, creates a collage of funny moments evocative of the old Carol Burnett show. As a musical revue links songs together with a thin story line or convenient concept, “Last Call” links jokes and comic bits together as if it were a “comic revue.”

The very funny and talented cast wrings every drop of humor out of the script, sending the audience into frequent fits of laughter.

But there’s a sweet undercurrent in the show’s theme. As the play concludes, we learn that “Last Call” becomes a last chance for characters we have come to find endearing. And that’s where Ms. Taylor’s play would be better served with a more vivid, meaty story line so that the audience can enter into that world of suspended disbelief and buy into the heartbreak driving Hank.

What resonates here, though, is the humor. And “Last Call” delivers a lot of that. This is fresh, original work. We’re hoping that this is just the first of many more to come from Ms. Taylor.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Last Call” runs through Feb. 17 at the Upstairs at the Henegar, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. It performs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Because of the show’s box office blow-out, a special 8 p.m. Valentine’s Day performance has been added. $15. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.henegar.org.