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'Play it Again, Sam' opens at the Fine Arts Center

January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 9:13 am
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photo - "We like him (Woody Allen)," says Scott RC Levy, producing artistic director of the Fine Arts Center, "which is a funny thing to say. He?s so unlikeable, he doesn't even like himself. There's something very human and real about the relationships and situations that he manages to put himself in, on top of being a really fabulous writer."
Gary Littman stars in the Fine Arts Center's production of "Play it Again, Sam." Photo by Jeff Kearney.
"We like him (Woody Allen)," says Scott RC Levy, producing artistic director of the Fine Arts Center, "which is a funny thing to say. He?s so unlikeable, he doesn't even like himself. There's something very human and real about the relationships and situations that he manages to put himself in, on top of being a really fabulous writer." Gary Littman stars in the Fine Arts Center's production of "Play it Again, Sam." Photo by Jeff Kearney. 

Preview, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, runs through Feb. 16, Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., $27-$37, $15 students, $18-$20 preview; 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org

Playing a role written by Woody Allen for Woody Allen can be tricky territory.

New York City-based actor Gary Littman will do just that in the Fine Arts Center's production of Allen's 1969 play, "Play It Again, Sam." The show opens Thursday.

Littman stars as Allan Felix, a depressed film critic whose wife has left him. He maneuvers through the dating scene, fantasizing that Humphrey Bogart, as his Rick Blaine character from the 1942's "Casablanca," is constantly giving him relationship advice. The role was Allen's Broadway acting debut and his second Broadway production. Local actor Cory Moosman plays the Bogart character.

"It's a lot of fun. It's exhausting," Littman says. "A lot of what I do is physical comedy, and that has its own exhaustion. This is different because being neurotic is extremely exhausting. It takes so much energy to perpetually tense up."

The play marked the first of many collaborations by Allen with Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts, who also starred, and was made into a film in 1972, again starring Allen, Keaton and Roberts.

"I love Woody Allen," says Scott RC Levy, producing artistic director of the FAC. Joye Cook-Levy directs the production. "I think a lot of people don't really remember or recognize that before he was a filmmaker, he was a playwright."

In preparing for the Felix role, Littman says he first searched out the commonalities he shared with the 78-year- old filmmaker.

"I have my own neuroses that are deep-seated," Littman says. "Being a person who's Jewish from New York, who is a character actor, who is short, there are a lot of similarities right there already. It's not that difficult for me to slip into the neuroses of Woody Allen - that are not exactly similar to mine - but I can ride his issues in his world and how he sees himself in it."

Littman and the famous writer also share something else in common.

"My dad grew up with Woody. They went to high school together," he says. "Woody wasn't there most of the time. He was off to New York City writing."

Contact Jennifer Mulson, 636-0270, jen.mulson@gazette.com

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