Saturday, May 8, 2010

From Wish to Prayer

Single Carrot Theatre's lythe production of Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Tamberlake) lights up the harrowing but oddly humorous script by Sheila Callaghan. The tale of yet another dysfunctional family adds an unusual twist by turning the apartment that has witnessed the family's trauma into its own character, The Apartment (Brendan Ragan). The surviving family triangle has more than its quota of quirks. Mother Clara (Genevieve de Mahy) is a gourmet chef whose detailed dinner and even breakfast menus would make the winners of Top Chef blush. Daughter Janice (Giti Jabaily) is an 11-year old lost soul who has broken down into her private world of doll games, word games, and growling incantations. In the evening's wittiest performance, Courtney Weber plays Aunt Clara, the forlorn aunt whose life is devoted to the care of her 57 cats and stilted "girl talk" with her deranged niece. Providing further quirks are guest appearances by celebrities Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford (both played by Elliott Rauh).
The energetic direction of Aldo Pantoja gives the production its pulsing, choreographed feel. Ragan's Apartment swings from the single rope that dominates the playing area; he leaps on ledges as he narrates the history of various tenants he has had to accommodate. Rauh complements the choreography with his athletic leaps and braggadocio imitations of the celebrities. As the play moves toward Christmas, with Clara trying to fulfill the strange Christmas list desires of Janice, the "family secret" that has caused the trauma comes into view. The father of the clan had died the previous Christmas in an accident related to the ragged apartment's rotting floors and dangerous electrical wires. A bit too neatly, Janice suddenly turns from curses to prayer as she recalls her deceased father over the votive candle her mother has given her for Christmas; Clara suddenly loses her anxiety and starts to coach her daughter on some group projects; even the aloof Aunt Barbara tries to patch up things with family by offering to move into a new apartment with them.
The script is not without its sentimentalities (cleverly disguised by its jagged structure) and the moral at the conclusion (Trust yourself; reach out; take reversal in stride) has the depth of a Hallmark card. But the energetic direction, physical gusto, and disciplined ensemble playing give the production its moving moments circling the emotions of loss as well as its dark humorous ones rooted in a family of sympathetic grotesques.

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