The Short Fall
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
June 3, 2011
The Short Fall centers around the Fodder family: the ambitious mother Tabby, husband Lloyd, their daughter Louvre, and the memory of their dead son Buckingham. Lloyd has been embezzling money from the chain department store where he holds a low level position. His supervisor Lance knows what he’s up to and is set to blackmail him. That’s when Tabby devises her plan. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say, Tabby takes her family on an adventure that deepens with conflict at every turn.
The Short Fall by David Caudle is a nice compact farce on a subject that seems indicative of our current culture. We love to lift our pop icons up as high as we can, so that when we cut them back down to size, the fall is long, hard, and entertaining. The play opens with Tabby pitching her story to a reality TV show called “Betrayal, blackmail, politics, intrigue, and murder.” The personals of a family exposed, for all to see. Now that’s great television. It is this medium and mentality that Caudle goes after.
Caudle’s writing is very funny and he uses his wit and wisdom to toss his darts. All hit their mark. He presents his protagonist with a choice. To have the life, and love of her husband and daughter. The chance to go back and mend things. To begin anew. Caudle uses the humor to illustrate his final point, a little taste of fame is worse than no fame at all. In the end Tabby is near hysterical as her celebrity slips her grasp.
As Tabby, Dori Legg is spectacular. Cunning, conniving, but we feel for her. She is after all a victim of our times. Legg is a pleasure to watch and she carries the show with confidence. Ron Bopst as the stumbling and naïve Lloyd is hysterical. He is a likeable character and Bopst’s charm and gifts at physical comedy show years of an actor working his craft. Bopst knows how to hook us, then pull us in. As Louvre, Kally Duling is feisty and tough. She has a natural ease on stage. Karen Stanion is one of two chorus members that play a variety of characters that propel the story along. Stanion has a versatility and comedic skill that’s brilliant. Each of her incarnations delights. Ryan Reilly, the other half of the chorus, also plays his variety of roles with humor and depth. His lisping “paper boy” made me laugh out loud. Playing the villain Lance, is Ryan Colwell. Lance is scheming, diabolical and falling in love with Tabby. Colwell is terrific. He’s a highly watchable actor.
The entire ensemble play well together and have fun. I saw opening night and there was little or no stumbling with the rapid fire text. Direction by David Michael Holmes is excellent. Characters mill around a mock TV studio before the play begins, so we get a glimpse of their backstage banter. Thus, we the audience play our roles twice. The idea is designed to include us as voyeurs, which is that sense in us that reality TV appeals to. This is aided by the stage manager calling scenes from the booth and announcing the locations of each.
James Sparber wrote original music and plays piano live, which is always a treat. His ambient sound effects are effective and make the music another character. Lights, sets, and costumes by Jill Nagle, Ana Popescu and Gian Marco Lo Forte, and Kate R. Mincer serve the play as needed.
This is the second production I’ve seen from Toy Box Theatre, the first being their unique interpretation of Woyzeck. They do good work, and seem to choose material that’s challenging and timely.