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A CurtainUp Review
It Has to Be You
That is how Catherine Butterfield's new comedy, It Has to Be You at the Abingdon Theatre sees it. Directed by Stuart Ross, this upbeat work skims along with witty lightness over a thoughtful undertone. It speaks to the "sandwich generation," the in-between group with elderly parents on one side and children to support on the other.
Peggy J. Scott plays a 75-year-old upper-middle class widow living in a spacious home in Massachusetts. Butterfield, besides writing the play, plays her daughter Mindy. It seems that all three of her well-meaning adult children have heard talk about their mother's recent dubious behavior, namely dancing nude on the balcony. Frank (Adam Ferrara) set off to explore the situation and their younger brother, Jed (Jeffrey C. Hawkins), a busy Hollywood film scenic designer, promises to join them.
Mindy and Frank find their mother even more eccentric than usual. She is getting ready to take a daily 3pm photograph of herself, to be part of a collection for her future show called, "Me at Three."
Except for assembling scrapbooks of family photographs, Mindy and Frank never suspected their mother was interested in photography but actually, Dorothy has quite an extensive collection, including nudes. More surprisingly, their late father had encouraged her talent —and her nudity. Who knew? It makes one wonder if children pay any attention to parental interests that do not involve them.
That is not the only shocker. Mindy and Frank find that their mother is seriously involved with an outgoing, fun-loving 48-year old piano tuner named Burt (Peter Davenport). The two live together in Dorothy's house and enjoy "the nightlife," lots of laughs and singing at home as Burt plays the valuable Bösendorfer.
"You go, Girl," some of us may think. Mindy and Frank, however, suspect the worst. Dorothy is losing her mind and Burt is after her money. Since Mindy is a single struggling realtor and Frank's family finances are threatened by his failing tuxedo rental business, they naturally worry about Dorothy's (and eventually their) estate.
More to come. The news of an upcoming marriage causes Mindy, Frank and younger brother Jed to take desperate measures. The result is heartbreaking, sending everything reeling and the children desperately trying to put together the pieces.
Stuart Ross orchestrates the mayhem with a sleek hand, showing Butterfield's Dorothy as a joyful woman. You can't blame her for being drawn to Davenport's likeable Burt who plays piano and sings their favorite songs, "Our Love is Here to Stay" and, of course, "It Had to Be You." You'd hate to see her hurt.
Butterfield brings out Mindy's loneliness and dissatisfaction with life since her long-time boyfriend left. Ferrara (TV's Nurse Jackie ) delivers snappy lines with comedic skill yet remains overwhelmed by Frank's financial worries. Playing pleasant though aloof Jed, Hawkins gives the feeling that Jed obviously would rather keep his distance from family problems. Since he accepts his part in causing the family to spin out-of-control, he tries to make things right and then grabs the first chance to get a flight out of town.
Use your imagination to picture Dorothy's upscale home since set designer Ian Paul Guzzone took the bare bones route, with blocks for seating and a tinny piano to the side draped with an large "antique" shawl. Sherry Martinez' costumes distinguish the characters with filmy, pastel tops over black tights and trendy wedgies for Dorothy. Mindy and Frank wear casual, suitable-for-work attire and Jed personifies Hollywood casual chic.
It's evident how easily one can uproot another's life, "for her own good," proving that there is some sad truth in one of the songs in the show, "You Always Hurt the One You Love."