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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The voiceover about turning off cell phones and unwrapping candy comes from Sheriff Ron Stucker (William Prael)), the suspicious law enforcer hovering around the edges of this true crime tale of sex and murder. And before you can finish unwrapping your candy, there's a gun shot. Right after the lights go on we see the victim of that jump-to-attention, mood setting gun shot. The body is all wrapped up so that it could be an animal, shades of the goat in Edward Albee's play at the Golden. But no, it's a man. What's more that man isn't the first or the last to run up against the play's premise, that a job at Karl (Robert Cuccioli) and Faye Streber's (Margaret Colin) Nebraska farm is a mighty dangerous proposition.
The story is skillfully developed and suspenseful enough to insure that all will want to return for the second act. It does have some holes deep enough for burying another body. The dialogue is at times embarrassingly hokey ("His lips don't devour, they graze") and at other times diminishes the thriller image by evoking laughter (Karl telling his potential next victim "Friendship has never come easy. For some reason people don't warm to me"). The wittiest line (and the play's only surprise) comes at the end about which I'll only say that it belongs to Faye.
Overall, as the characters's lives are burdened with heavy psychological baggage, so Wiltse's play is sufficiently weighed down by bits and pieces from movies and books that have criss-crossed similar plot complications to prompt this overheard exit remark: "It was like an old movie on TV that keeps you up past your bed time, but for $35?" What saves Temporary Help from garnering more such reactions is the eminently watchable cast, ably directed by Leslie L. Smith.
Margaret Colin comes close to lifting Faye above being a dysfunctional Western derivative of Blanche DuBois. Rubert Cuccioli, best known as ponytailed lead of the musical Jekyll & Hyde proves himself up to the demands of a straight dramatic part, in this case as the all Hyde and no Jekyll Karl. Chad Allen, best known for Dr. Quinn and Medicine Woman, has already played the hapless but hunky drifter Vincent when the Westport Country Playhouse mounted a different production of this play. He convincingly laces ingenuousness with volatility. His repeated declarations about knowing how to protect himself and not being as dumb as some people think gives a consistency and focus to his character that's lacking in Faye and Karl. Of course, Vincent, is dumb and it's William Prael's none too swift appearing Sheriff Stucker (Stucker as in stuck on Faye) who's not so dumb. It's not just his twenty-five-year-long crush on Faye, but a nose for funny business that has him snooping around the Streber farmstead as the fourth man in this triangle.
Troy Nourie's unit set of the Streber living room and kitchen helps to establish the dreary atmosphere of economic as well as psychological problems. The play's time frame is the present but the brown and plaid upholstery and wallpaper (matched by Mattie Ullrich's forever plaid shirts for the men), kitchen equipment and tacky accessories indicate that the place hasn't been upgraded since Faye's father owned the place.
If you are willing to sympathize with the victimhood of Wiltse's characters, Temporary Help fits the Revelation Theater's mission which includes "spotlighting characters who have been subjected to the inequalities of our society." I for one feel it will take one of the company's future productions to reveal its aim to "challenge and inspire."
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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