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A CurtainUp Review
Of course, in modern-day family dramas, the gods don't interfere. Or if they do, it's generally through a car accident or a fatal disease. Sometimes one wishes the gods would make their desires known quicker, ending a play that goes on too long and says too little.
Mother, Lisa Eberole's new play, making its world premiere at The Wild Project Theater, is fairly true to form. Its one distinguishing characteristic is that it takes place on New Years Eve and director Andrew Grosso and set designer Sandra Goldmark have turned the stage into the dining room of an upscale resort in West Virginia. The program, in the form of a menu, continues the conceit.
The play's other distinguishing characteristic is that the cast is led by the formidable Emmy award-winning Holland Taylor who plays Kitty Leroy, the mother of the family, opposite Buck Henry who is her husband, Joseph Leroy.
Ms. Ebersole herself plays Kate Leroy, whose main function in the play is to antagonize her brother Jackie (Haskell King). There arguments seem to be based on the theory that they are siblings and siblings always engage in something called "sibling rivalry."
There are, however, some real problems in the Leroy family. Mr. Leroy has lost much of the family fortune. Everyone seems to suspect Jackie is a closeted homosexual. Mrs. Leroy drinks too much and suffers from migraines. Kate can't keep a man. And a mysterious family, the Wilsons, also at the resort, has a penchant for kidnapping various Leroys, although Ebersole never makes clear why.
After various members of the family leave the stage to go scouting for each other, it becomes clear that the Wilsons are primarily a device to get some family members out of the way so other family members can talk about them. Which is pretty odd as the Leroys are a bunch of talkers, not a one of them seems capable of keeping a secret.
Through it all the admirable Chester (the excellent Keith Randolph Smith), a resort employee and family friend, tries to keep peace and sanity, with occasional moments of success.
Ebersole and Grosso work hard to make the play seem naturalistic. Patrons willing to pay $30 are seated at tables onstage and served a glass of Prosecco. And Ebersole, perhaps under the belief that the average American is incapable of articulating a lengthy thought, limits her sentences to about a half dozen words at most. Unfortunately, the staccato effect thus produced seems much more artificial than the longer more evocative sentences of more ambitious playwrights who have some faith in the attention span of the average theatergoer.
Although King and Ebersole never manage to do much with their snarky dialogue, Henry has his moments, and Taylor virtually lights up the stage to such a degree that she is sorely missed when the playwright finds some excuse to get her offstage.
Kitty Leroy is the wife of a man who is clueless and incompetent, and the mother of self-involved children who refuse to grow up. She is the only character written with any depth and played with any sensitivity. Kitty Leroy deserves a better family. Holland Taylor deserves a better play.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide