nytheatre.com review by Liz Kimberlin
September 1, 2005
Finding Pedro, written by James Heatherly and Lisa Gardner, is, at its heart, a very sweet little play. Heatherly, who plays ALL the characters—something like ten parts—just wants you to have a good time while you attend a party in God-Knows-Where, Texas. He picks three audience judges at random for the show’s finale, and gives away a lovely parting gift to one lucky audience member.
In Finding Pedro, resident society grand dame Gwendolyn Perry gives her annual formal gala in which three finalists compete for “the highly coveted Commodore Perry ‘Distinguished Gift to the Community of Sherrill’ Philanthropic Award.” First, New York transplant and society wannabe Coolie Juiceman yearns to win although she is contemptuous of all the hicks around her. Second, Flynn Stonewall, one of those hicks, has never been to such a fancy dress ball and is completely mortified, not to mention hopelessly clumsy, in the presence of the rich and semi-famous. Third, Pedro, a non-English-speaking Mexican gardener who is most mysteriously a no-show—much to the alarm of his boyfriend Tommy, who is also Gwendolyn Perry’s nephew. Could Pedro have run away? Or was he kidnapped? And who will be the winner?
Both the play and Heatherly have a great deal of charm, although at 90 minutes, it’s much too long and Heatherly’s energetic bopping up and down from chair to floor to change characters wears thin after an hour. Fortunately, Lisa Gardner’s direction keeps the show and the story ever moving with few moments of stagnation. Heatherly packs a lot into his stage time: he has a slow dance with himself, a fistfight with himself, looks pregnant, looks refined and inscrutable, talks white trash, talks Long-Gisland-ese and even sings. He looks great simply dressed throughout in casual light blue button-down shirt and white trousers, and he has a nice singing voice—although I’m not sure what the song is doing there, other than Heatherly giving himself the opportunity to sing it. (Not a quarrel, just a comment.) I also liked the airy, elegant set designed by Jared B. Leese. I could almost smell the honeysuckle and hear the cicadas.
As far as the script goes, I would have liked to see more of Gwendolyn’s domestic servants Frank and Carl, whom I found much more interesting than busybody do-gooder Evelyn, or loutish Ricky, who storms the party in search of his wife. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that Heatherly and Gardner may be doing themselves a disservice by keeping Finding Pedro a straightforward narrative when there is a wealth of opportunity for telling the story first in monologues through the eyes of these wonderfully quirky characters and then culminating with the frenzied here-there-and-everywhere interaction that Heatherly does so impressively.
But Finding Pedro is a fun night at the theatre, and I look forward to seeing what Heatherly, Gardner, and producers Saturday Players come up with next.