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No one’s hands are clean after digging in THE SEEDBED, expertly acted at Irish Classical

THE BASICS:  THE SEEDBED, an intense family drama by Bryan Delaney presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, directed by Greg Natale, starring Chris Kelly, Kristen Tripp Kelley, Arianne Davidow, and Eric Rawski runs through April 2nd, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 & 7:30, and Sundays at 2:00 at the Andrews Theatre, 625 Main Street in downtown Buffalo. Run time: 2-1/2 hours with one fifteen-minute intermission. Full service bar. (853-ICTC). www.irishclassicaltheatre.com  – Also refer to this preview synopsis

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Inspired by “Chinese Whispers” (here in the U.S. known as the parlor game of “telephone”) where an idea passes from person to person and grows increasingly distorted, this play about a dysfunctional Irish family has estranged 18-year-old daughter Maggie come home after six months in Holland to show off her new fiancé, Mick (who is more than twice her age) to both her mother, Hannah, and step-father, Thomas.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Like the proverbial ducks seemingly placid on the water while their webbed feet are paddling furiously just below the surface, the four characters in THE SEEDBED are working overtime to justify their actions and pretend to be just another happy family. Overtime? They could work double shifts for years and still not come close to being a happy family.

Director Greg Natale has ably managed the ebb and flow of hurt, anger, and resentment allowing it to swell and ebb, swell and ebb, then crash on shore, only to ebb and swell again. These people are nuts. How they hide that from themselves and how it pokes through the veneer is not only well-directed but well-acted. Where to begin?

Director Greg Natale has ably managed the ebb and flow of hurt, anger, and resentment allowing it to swell and ebb, swell and ebb, then crash on shore, only to ebb and swell again.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Kristen Tripp Kelley’s performance as Hannah is a must-see. She’s an ICTC audience favorite who has been on all the major Buffalo stages and she just does a masterful job.

And there’s also universal acclaim for Arianne Davidow as Maggie, the daughter. Here she moves on from her sex-pot roles of Queenie in THE WILD PARTY, Vanessa in IN THE HEIGHTS, and the Mistress in EVITA to a very nuanced performance where she is the plaything of fate.

Kristen Tripp Kelley as Hannah, Chris Kelly as Thomas, Arianne Davidow as Maggie and Eric Rawski as Mick

And, right in the thick of things, Chris Kelly, another ICTC veteran with a list of credits as long as your arm, completely inhabits the role of Thomas, the stepfather. Is he just overprotective as it first appears to the fiancé, or is it more than that as Hannah believes, or is yet something else going on? Kelly’s drunken two a.m. encounter with the fiancé followed by his Macbeth style meltdown at the anniversary dinner are not to be missed.

I believe that Erik Rawski was miscast and that’s too bad, because I love him when he plays vulnerable. In the plays DANIEL’S HUSBAND and STEVE both of his unforgettable performances went right to my heart. But the role of Mick needs to be a little scarier, a little more authoritative, a little more worldly, befitting a man of Mick’s age and experience.

The characters are well blocked, moving believably in the small space provided. My little joke is that at the Andrews theater I always get “the best seats in the house” the joke being that it’s theater in the round and all seats are equal. Having said that, it did seem that the placement of the sofa and the dining room table were particularly favorable to my seats in the Northwest corner. Your results may vary.

Staying with the production for a moment, let me give a huge round of applause for Props-master Sarah Foote (there are a lot of liquids in this show). If this is, as it states in the program, her first professional production, she’s on a rocket trajectory. Stage manager Renee Radzavich and Assistant Matt Refermat, and the interns who handled the lightning quick scene changes, also set the bar high. The local gold-standard for production elements in my book is The Shaw Festival and this production was Shaw-worthy.

Coming up: Kristen Tripp Kelley will appear in Road Less Traveled’s THE COUNTRY HOUSE.

*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!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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