nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
March 9, 2007
Blood Turnip tells a story staged many times before: an unhappy wife takes matters into her own hands in an attempt to get back whatever it was she thought she lost that it turns out she never had in the first place. The lead in this particular version, Beverly, has committed an act before the play begins that she immediately shares with us. Beverly (played by the likeable Melanie Furjanic) lives in a small town with her lousy husband John (played spot-on by David Davoli) and her overbearing but funny mother-in-law Nora (portrayed with gaiety by Charmaine Broad), making a living as a secretary. Beverly tries in vain to hold her crumbling world together by tolerating Nora and her sister-in-law Katie (Lynn Mancinelli, who stands out as the sister-in-law no one would want). Beverly also does things like buy pre-made dinners for her husband John's birthday instead of telling him—and all of them— just how unhappy she is.
Trouble is, Beverly doesn't know what she wants. And while in real life many of us don't know what we want, it's tough to drive dramatic action when the main character doesn't know what she wants—the result is that neither the other characters nor the writer/director can help her.
What is clear is that John's family annoys Beverly, and they delight in doing so, save the obvious overtures of smittenness from her brother-in-law Nate (an enjoyable Joshua Seidner). Most of the action takes place with Beverly surrounded by her annoying in-laws waiting for John to get home and enjoy his store-bought birthday dinner and cake, and so Beverly can presumably share the news of her act of desperation with him.
At times, especially when seen through the eyes of Nate's latest girlfriend, a Croatian from New Jersey played to the hilt with slickness by Roxanne Kaptisa, Blood Turnip is able to take a humorous approach to dealing with in-laws. Despite the fact that in Nora's mind everything is about her, she and Beverly share some good moments of alpha female sparring. And though Nate has been labeled the black sheep of the family because he's an artist, he's the only one who makes any sense, truly caring about Beverly and sticking up for her when no one else will. Even John gets a moment of humor after the windfall that assures the audience this is his worst birthday ever.
But ultimately Blood Turnip lacks resolution. Despite Beverly's divulging of her secret, which the audience knows about from the get-go, nothing really seems to happen. Conversely, because so many hot topics are covered in the piece—the modern woman's role, motherhood, family dynamics, cheating—I felt that writer/director Christine Perfetti wasn't sure what she wanted to say and, as a result, tried to cover everything. Clearly Perfetti cares about her characters, but it seemed to me she didn't trust herself to allow the piece to be just about one thing.