Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Mercy on the Doorstep
By Elyse Sommer
Here's how these unlikely housemates ended up living under one roof: When Conrad, Rena's father and Corrine's husband was dying, Rena and Mark brought their promise of an afterlife to his bedside which led him to will the house where Corrine still lives to his daughter. But true to the title, while Rena and Mark, are determined to claim the house they are not about to kick Corrine out -- that is, if she agrees to stop boozing and accept Jesus Christ into her life, the latter to be achieved via daily lessons from Mark.
As if this weren't a bitter enough pill for a decidedly un-Christian woman like Corrine to swallow, Mark who is a graduate minister (a credential Corrine scorns as probably something "he send in for some certificate from a matchbook") is going to launch his ministry in the store next to the house. Quite a switch for what was formerly known as "Conrad's Vintage and Adult Emporium" catering to people more interested in being sexually aroused by one of his widely stocked pornographic videos than becoming strictly observant, fundamentalist Christians. The remains of that porno collection figures importantly in both exacerbating and resolving a marital problem that no amount of praying has overcome.
Whatever your own belief system may be, Hoppe isn't trying to sway you to either Mark and Rena's or Corrine's life style. Instead, he has created three uniquely imperfect characters. You might not feel particularly in sync with any of them, but the author makes you understand just what makes them tick -- not just in terms of their relationship to religion but to each other. New York audiences are more likely to be drawn to the freewheeling Corrine and root for the born again Rena to hold onto her irrepressibly warm and sexy spirit -- but they may well surprise themselves by eventually liking even the priggish Mark.
For all the talk about sin and redemption, this is not a fire and brimstone message play but a thoroughly enjoyable, drawing room comedy -- the drawing room being the living room/dining room of Corrine's (and as the play begins, Mark and Rena's) rather shabby house somewhere in mid-America. Corrine, especially, gets off some priceless comic dialogue. That brings me to the performances which do so much to make these characters leap so vividly from page to stage.
Laura Esterman, an actress with many memorable roles to her credit, mines the play's rich opportunities for showing off her considerable talent for comedy. She lands her many ironic comebacks with the precision of an expert marksman and can convey what's going on in her character's head with no more than a lifted eyebrow.
While Esterman has the part offering the meatiest bone to chew, she has found a marvelous stage stepdaughter in Jenn Harris. This terrific young actress made the otherwise mediocre Modern Orthodox worth seeing and distinguished herself in a previous Flea show, Ashley Montana in Macao (our review). Like her stage stepmom, Harris able to combine strong emotion with deadpan humor. If you wonder why a straight play lists a choreographer in its program credits, wait until the messy living room that opens the play has been cleared and you see Harris turn a bit of "cleanliness is next to Godliness" housewifery into a riotously revealing dust-and-dance scene.
Mark Rosenthal, who like Ms. Esterman, appeared in this play's only previous production at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater of which Mr. Hoppe is a founding member, has the least showy role. But then, the playwright hasn't meant for this troubled young proselytizer to be one of those larger-than-life ministers with a huge television ministry, and so Rosenthal's more laid-back performance is exactly right.
Under Jim Simpson's direction, the scenes fly by and the brief intra-scene blackouts are unobrusively and smoothly handled with the help of several members of the Flea's resident troupe of Bats. Unlike the Flea's generally spare scenery, this production boasts a marvelously detailed set by Susan Zeeman Rogers, complete with a staircase leading to the upstairs. Kevin Hardy's lighting helps to establish the time and mood of each scene. Erin Elizabeth Murphy and Nathalie Ferrier (costumes) and Rick Arnoldi (music) contribute to the just right look, feel and sound of this play about a family that doesn't fit the definition for an average American Family -- but then atypical is more and more apt adjective to describe what was once known as the American as apple pie family.
The Internet Theatre Bookshop "Virtually Every Play in the World" --even out of print plays
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.