Every Maui theater group has made risky choices this season. The rewards are not always immediate, but the effort legitimizes Maui theater as it continues to grow.
Last Friday, I attended the opening of "and Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" at the ProArts Playhouse. Paul Zindel's play is reminiscent of Tennessee Williams, David Mamet and Arthur Miller; so when you attend be forewarned that the content is heavy and dark to say the least.
The play opens with Catherine Reardon (Kristi Scott) preparing for an unwanted family dinner party. Scott exhibits all the sarcasm Zindel intended and achieves a great many commanding moments as the cornerstone of the splintered Reardon family. "Miss Reardon" is principally a story about three sisters that don't like each other very much, not their deceased mother.
Kristi Scott (left) and Sarah Loney appear in a scene from “and Miss Reardon Drinks a Little.”
Photo courtesy of ProArts
There are several superior performances by this cast, but in my mind it is Zindel's story that is subject to scrutiny. In comparison to the deeply flawed characters of Williams and Mamet, we kind of like Blanche Dubois and Shelly Levine, we almost root for them to get their way.
With Zindel's characters, one has to ask if it is a fool's errand, or as the sister Ceil Adams (Martha Siefkin) exclaims, "it's too late in the game." I found myself sympathizing with Siefkin's portrayal of Mrs. Adams despite the fact that she married Catherine's boyfriend, raided her dead mother's home for valuables and wishes to put her youngest sister, Anna (Sarah Loney), in an insane asylum. To be concise, Martha just wants to get out alive, which is perhaps the reason why her family visitations are few and far between.
In contrast, Scott's Catherine martyrs herself by desensitizing, not unlike the reasonably normal family members that live with the crazy mom on "Hoarders."
Like a game of Tetris, Mark Collmer masterfully directs the comedy of this morose scenario and to his credit Zindel tosses in some big laughs just in the nick of time throughout his play.
Jett Batoon is hysterical as the pushy, nosey, Filipina, Mary Kay saleswoman, Mrs. Aquino. Newcomer Nathan Galusky, gives a laudable and believable performance as a fresh, wise cracking, New York, teenage delivery boy.
As the much lighter first act comes to a close, we discover that chemistry teacher Anna is on leave for inappropriate behavior with a student, assistant principal Catherine "drinks a little," and Ceil, as the school superintendent, has to clean up the mess, cover her butt, and attempt to make peace with her siblings, preferably without getting shot.
In the second act, Lisa Teichner, practically steals the show with her hilarious, Fran Drescher-like depiction of Fleur Stein.
Fleur, though a bit of a stereotype, is another sympathetic character, if for no other reason by default. Her biggest flaws are that she is merely cheap, selfish and greedy. Andy Howansky, as husband Bob Stein, plays all his laugh lines well. This particular role was originally played by Bill Macy, whom you can easily envision playing it. Howansky remains true to that classic New York, Neil Simon, Woody Allen style.
By the closing moments of the second act, Sarah Loney's prodigious performance as Anna leaves few doubts in regards to her mental state. At the least she is a severely delusional woman with countless phobias that likely had some type of sexual encounter with one of her teen students. Scott's self-martyred cornerstone, Catherine, is left with a final choice. Zindel's choice is very real, but in reality, sometimes the truest answer we can concede is "I don't know."
- Michael Pulliam
* ProArts' "and Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" by Paul Zindel, directed by Mark Collmer continues through June 3 at the ProArts Playhouse. The Maui cast includes Kristi Scott, Martha Siefken, Sarah Loney, Andy Howansky, Lisa Teichner, Jett Batoon, and Nathan Galusky. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Ask about the ProArts Thursday Kama'aina Nights, tonight and May 31. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students 18 and younger. For reservations or more information call 463-6550 or visit proartspacific.com.