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A CurtainUp Review
Now That's What I Call a Storm

I feel like I blinked and missed half my life here
When my colleague Les Gutman reviewed Ann Marie Healy's Somewhere Some Place Else he sympathized with the difficult task the playwright had set herself in trying to make a compelling evening of theater out of a story about dull, uninteresting people. The main character in that place had left Minnesota for a more fulfilling life in New York. In Now That's What I Call a Storm, all six characters are Minnesotans. And while the hour and forty minutes we spend with them has the potential for a compelling drama, even framing a horrendous tragedy within the context of a somewhat surrealistic comedy doesn't make for a genuinely memorable experience.

Designer David Korins depicts the dullsville winter of Midwestern discontent with a nice sense for blending realism (a living room with comfortable chairs and fireplace) with expressionism (a mountain of snow encircling the set). Unfortunately, Now That's What I Call a Storm is not all that funny and its tragic elements aren't realized with enough power and conviction.

I don't like to spoil any surprises with too many plot details, especially if such surprises entail a dead body. However, the suspense in Healy's play is not the discovery of the body of college student Rosemary Hannaham draped over the cans of sodas stored in the garage of her parent's house, but how they will deal with this almost immediately revealed traumatic situation.

The scene leading up to Boots Hannaham's (Daniel Ahearn) discovering what his wife Nanette (Mary Louise Burke) has already discovered is quietly effective. Boots stomping in and out of the house with his snow shovel to keep ahead of the snow piling up outside, while Nanette, obviously deeply disturbed about something sits huddled in an armchair.

The way they deal with the shock of their daughter's inexplicable (at least to them) suicide turns out to be a darkly farcical case of denial. Upon seeing their neighbors Janice (Rebecca Nelson) and Arne (Guy Boyd) walking home from the Supper Club that seems to be the social high point of these people's lives, Nanette invites them in to share leftovers and what seems like the usual inane talk of second homes in warmer climates and often told stories.
Boots seems constantly on the verge of speaking out but Nanette won't have it. Somehow the ensuing scenes are slow sledding. The pace picks up a bit when the surface neighborliness gives way to the more upfront and less civil confrontations (apparently Nanette's way of trying to find reasons for the unimaginable horror that has turned their ordinary existence into something usually reserved for newspaper headlines). The arrival of Janice and Arne's sons, Justin (Ted Schneider) and Joseph (Daniel Talbott) heightens the unexpressed tensions -- Justin's comments indicating that his relationship with an unseen girl friend threatens to continue the pattern of just letting things happen. But it's Joseph, who at first has nothing at all to say, who finally breaks through the static feeling that overhangs too much of the play.

Director Carolyn Cantor has cannily cast Mary Lou Burke, a specialist in endearingly quirky characters, as Nanette. True to form, Burke manages to keep Nanette from falling into the caricature trap. The boom-voiced Guy Boyd is also a standout as Arne who at one point ruefully says "I feel like I blinked and missed half my life here" -- and so is Daniel Talbott as the cookie-muching, late in the play talker.

In the end, That's What I Call a Storm is a play that should evoke more of a storm of feelings and laughter than it does. Ms. Healy is a young and prolific writer. I think one of these days she'll come up with a script that matches her ambitions throughout rather than now and then.

The Edge Theater Company is presenting this play in repertory with Adam Rapp's Blackbird. For Les Gutman's review of that play go here.

Somewhere Some Place Else

Now That's What I Call A Storm

Written by Ann Marie Healy
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
Cast: Daniel Ahearn, Guy Boyd, Marylouise Burke, Rebecca Nelson, Ted Schneider, and Daniel Talbott
Set Design: David Korins
Costume Design: Junghun Georgia Lee
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Eric Shim
Dialect Coach: Pamela Prather
Running time: 1 hour and 40 minutes, without intermission.
The Edge Theater Company at Blue Heron Arts Center, 123 East 24th Street, (Lexington/Park Avenues) SmartTix 212-868-4444
Monday, Wednesday though Saturday evenings at 8 pm, and Sunday evenings at 7 pm.
Tickets, $40
3/31/04 to 5/22/04; opening 4/26/04
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on performance
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