Ben Miles Reviews - Theater

Peter Quilter is a playwright whose scripts are typically premised on biographical subjects, such as his Over the Rainbow about the sad last days of the multi-talented Judy Garland and Glorious!, based on the American socialite and amateur soprano, Florence Foster Jenkins. Quilter’s latest play, Bestseller— now in its world premiere at Long Beach’s International City Theatre (through June 30) — is a departure from his earlier works.

Bestseller, with clever comical choreography by director Jane Page, has as its premise a writers' retreat where would-be scribes meet annually to explore and share their literary notions. With six ready-and-able performers, four of whom  — Wendy Worthington, as Maureen, ably shows her range as a character actor; Ian McQuown, as Damien, is obsessed with horror and displaying the dark-side of his nightmarish imagination; Alexandra Ruth Wright, as Shelley, suggestively sublimates her sexual longings into her romance novels; and Eric Myrick, as Alex, is insecure and plagued by doubts that he can endure as a wordsmith — are all aspiring authors, while two other thespians serve as figments of the writers’ imaginations (the charismatic Julia Davis and the energetic Sam Spanjian) who enact the various scenarios that the retreat participants have imagined and penned.

With a lush scenic design by Christopher Scott Murillo, which evokes a spacious lakeside abode, an indispensable lighting design by Stacy McKenney-Norr that sets the pace for many of the show’s shenanigans through timely blackouts creating the the effect of freeze-framing, an array of costumes suitable to the variety of fantasy scenes designed by Kim DeShazo, and a sound design by Corwin Evans, which provides clear musical cues and transitions as the proceedings progress. There is an inconsistency in the design motif, however; though the show is supposedly set in the present day, the telephone is a rotary device descended from yesteryear, as is the manual typewriter on display.

Bestseller has moments that reveal the potential for a fine and funny farce. In its current state of incubation, however, this two-hour romp is more madcap than comedy.

International City Theatre is located at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center (in the Beverly O’Neill Theater), 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, 90802. Bestseller is performed in the evenings at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are on Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations call (562)436-4610. For online ticketing and further information visit