THE BASICS: This well-regarded, 2011 comedy-drama by David Lindsay-Abaire (RABBIT HOLE) is having its local premiere at the Kavinoky Theatre. There are continuing weekend performances through March 30th, including Saturday 4pm and Sunday 2pm shows. Robert Waterhouse directs a cast of six. The play runs approximately 2 hours with its 10 minute intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Boston, present day. Margie Walsh, a middle aged woman with a grown, severely retarded daughter, has been a “Southie” her whole life. That is, a resident of South Boston’s Lower End—where bingo is the best thing going, and almost no one lives above the poverty line. As the play opens, Margie gets sacked from her job at the dollar store. She’s habitually late, at least in part because she cannot leave her daughter unattended. As work for the unskilled is particularly hard to find during the Great Recession, Margie finally clutches at a straw, looking up her old high school boyfriend, Mike. Mike (Dillon) has had a few breaks that Margie hasn’t, and, being bright and ambitious, has gotten himself out of the Lower End. In fact, he’s gone on to become a successful doctor, with a home and family in tony Chestnut Hill. Desperate for work, Margie forces herself back into Mike’s life temporarily, armed with memories sweet and painful, and with a big secret that she is, at first, reluctant to spring. Enough said; I don’t want to spoil one of the Buffalo theater season’s best outings to date!
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: The play itself has much to recommend it. “Southie” life generates a steady stream of laughs in act one. The climax comes in the big first scene of act two, where Mike’s two worlds, old and new, awkwardly and painfully collide. This is great social drama. A short closing scene back in the ‘hood finishes things off in jocular, colloquial fashion, but with a nifty little twist. Intellectually speaking, the playwright covers some mighty interesting ground here: What makes a good person? The difference between being a genuinely good person and merely giving that impression. The big role that birth, circumstances and breaks (lucky and unlucky) have in making each of us the people we are today.
The cast, stocked with local luminaries, is uniformly fine, and director Waterhouse has them delivering the goods. If the Boston accents are a little iffy (admission: I’m married to a former Bostonian, and make frequent trips to Beantown), it’s a minor quibble. David King’s turntable set is a real wow …although the Chestnut Hill living room should have been more elegantly and luxuriously appointed. Production values on the whole live up to the theater’s high standards.
IN SUM: An outstanding new American play, beautifully realized by the cast and crew at the Kav. Kudos all around!
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!
Photos by Simon Faber