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A CurtainUp Review
Although the painful memories of seeing the last preview of the infamous Moose Murders are now as fleeting as the last time I had a tooth pulled, the image of the number of moose heads mounted on the walls of Marjorie Kellogg’s original spectacular setting is indelibly impressed. Not surprisingly, there is only one moose head and a deer head mounted on the wall in the production by the Beautiful Soup Theater Collective, under the clueless direction of Steven Carl McCasland, but this is, after all one step above (or maybe below) community theater.
Theater history buffs will recall that film and TV star Eve Arden left the Broadway-bound cast out-of-town and Holland Taylor took over her role of Hedda Holloway, unwittingly earning a kind of immortality. Taylor, of course, went on to a fine career on stage and TV and is currently preparing to play the title role in Ann, the biographical play about Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas, this Spring on Broadway.
Let’s clarify at the very top. This “shamelessly revised” (according to the front page of the program) version by the play’s author Arthur Bicknell is still not about the disappearance and/or mutilation of any endangered species, unless you include playwriting, acting, and direction.
While it would be nice to have some kind words to say about any single aspect of this amateurishly performed and poorly staged resurrection, I can’t think of any, except adding, that if this is (as stated in the press release) a continuation of a student group that director McCasland founded while at Pace University — “Group Therapy Productions”— the therapy is evidently still in progress and I wish them all well.
The play is, as was the original, still punctuated with the periodic claps of thunder which, as you know, were once upon a time a prerequisite for a certain genre. With such special sound effects, what can one expect of a ludicrous plot that involves an entire family stranded at a mountain resort with a murderous moose on the loose?
But let’s get on with it. Hedda Holloway (Anna Kirkland) has purchased aforementioned establishment called The Wild Moose Lodge, high in the Adirondacks, presumably to make the final days of her wealthy quadriplegic husband Sidney (Dennis DelBene) a little easier. Sidney is immobile, his head wrapped like a mummy. It seems, he was either pushed or fell out of a window. Confined to a wheelchair this “mummy’s curse” cannot utter a word. Assigned to his care, is chain-smoking Nurse Dagmar (Noelle Stewart) who has an on-again-off-again accent from no discernable place on earth.
Arriving neurotically attached to the bellowing Hun-like Hedda are Stinky (Jordan Tierney), her moronic son with a crassly incestuous attachment to her; Gay (Caroline Rosenblum), her youngest daughter, an obnoxiously precocious eleven year old brat who fancies herself a tap-dancing Shirley Temple; Lauraine (Ali Bernstein), the hyper-emotional married daughter and Nelson (Cory Boughton), Lauraine’s scheming husband. As it’s not over until its over, let give a mention to the participation of Snooks (Brittany Velotta) and Howie (Steven Carl McCasland, yes, the director) as two lamentably untalented entertainers formerly employed at the hotel who find themselves trapped at the lodge when the bridge collapses on this dark and stormy night. Lastly, if not least of the victims of this farrago, is the caretaker Joe Buffalo Dance (Orlando Iriarte) who wears a feathered Indian headdress pretending to be an Indian for the locals.
As this unfortunately slip-shod, embarrassingly performed and staged production unraveled within the confines of Dennis DelBene’s shabby, make-shift setting, I also hoped that it wouldn’t affect the future of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective that has as one of its commitments to give a portion of its proceeds to charitable organizations. It is a shame that this collective could not have collected a company of actors with the necessary flair for the play’s “shamelessly” absurd antics, one that could have had some sport with it and made it fun for us. They didn’t and it wasn’t.
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