The Pigeon That Cries in My Heart
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 13, 2007
You may know or at least suspect that this production is a great night of theatre because of the powerhouse trio of playwrights that No Tea Productions has selected, but what you don't know (and I can assure you) is that this young production company kicks out a tremendous show with an equally powerful ensemble.
The theme of the night is screwed-up families. I think most of us can identify with this. In fact, some may even feel left out or inadequately prepared for life if they grew up with a "normal" family. These three playwrights—John Guare, Christopher Durang, and Steve Martin—are masters of the twisted family story and these three plays go so very well together that the night feels fluid.
The night begins with Guare's The Loveliest Afternoon of the Year. It tells the story of a quirky man who avoids his bizarrely abusive wife and their two kids by spending time with a lonely young woman he happened to meet in the park one day. He tells her the strangest stories about his extended family but we're never quite sure if he's telling the truth. I liked the energy in this performance. It starts very slow, tense, and kind of cold and then it warms up as the actors do. Jeff Sproul plays the darkish urgency in his character very well and he balances that with very endearing innocence. His partner, Alicia Barnatchez, is equally endearing.
Next is Christopher Durang's Nina in the Morning, a short play about an eccentric rich woman whose facelift is falling and whose kids are trying to kill her. She is so narcissistic that she accuses her mentally retarded daughter of faking it just to taunt her. Brooke Eddey owns this role. It's a role that an actor can run with but Eddey flies with it. She's hilarious. The whole cast is terrific in this one. They really capture the Durang attitude. D. Robert Wolcheck is very good as all three kids and Sproul, once again, shines as Foote, the molar-yanking butler. Jay Painter plays an excellent smarmy narrator.
Finally, WASP by Steve Martin. This play I didn't know at all and I found it to be the most interesting. It's a very nice cap-off to the night. This one is a slice of the life of a family living in two worlds; one is their façade world where they create the picture they believe everyone should see, but the other is a world of secret desires. They can go from being ridiculously self-righteous and insensitive to being profoundly introspective and a little sad. There are many great Steve Martin one-liners but also a few beautiful monologues. Barnatchez as the good girl, Sis, nails her monologue and Sproul is fantastic as the self-assured and callous Dad. Eddey is super as the TV mom with a voice in her head and Wolcheck find the heart in the brother.
Director Lindsey Moore gives the show a very balanced vigor. The energies and styles blend very well. She's found some fun bits, pulled some great performances out of a great cast, and the only thing that slows her pace are the clunky scene changes in WASP. Caroline O'Hare helps by providing perfect costumes for the mood of each piece.
This production is a good reason to go out and see some short plays that you may already know but love to see done well. The cast really makes it. This is No Tea Productions' second show and judging from their work here I think they're a company to look out for.