"A sighted actor" is not a phrase usually noted in a program, unless of course you are attending any of the truly creative endeavors of the Theatre for the Blind. Their latest production, When I'm 64, explores the pains and triumphs of growing older alongside some lifelong friends.
It's Labor Day weekend, the perfect time for four friends from Yale Drama to reconnect. As per a little tradition, they meet at the beach house in Provincetown that was left to all of them by their former acting teacher. Since their graduation back in the '60s, Barb (Karen Case Cook) was a sitcom star; Roger (J.M. McDonough), her husband, is a drama teacher at UCLA; Sheila (Melanie Boland) has become Provincetown's librarian; and Gar (who has since become blind) now runs a theatre company in New York. The lighthearted reunion suddenly goes sour when Sheila drops a bombshell: she is facing a debilitating illness and wants them to agree to sell the house so that she can move into a retirement home in Iowa. Their reactions to her news form the basis for the story line, as they are forced to deal with aging and what they lose and gain in the name of friendship.
Whether this was an intentional directorial stamp or not, the grand style of acting from the principal characters was immediately apparent at the top of the show. Boland appropriately played her role as if it were her final scene in Medea (they were all Yale Drama students, after all). She made the already interesting script come alive with passion.
Cook played her Barb with a marvelous quality that evoked memories of Rue McClanahan's Golden Girls character. Her role was rich with gripping show-biz ambition and pride. She brought out in her character the personal sacrifices an actress must constantly make to stay a star.
George Ashiotis played a clever Gar and seemed to take all of the conventional catty lines to a more sensitive place. He was the voice of the most memorable lines in the play.
Classic leading man McDonough played the center of calm and reason. His part in the scene with Cook was vulnerable and compelling, as the couple battled over their unmet needs.
The adorable Nicholas Viselli played Edward, the younger real-estate friend to Sheila and Gar who helps Sheila arrange the plan to sell the house and keep the secret of her illness for a year before telling her other friends.
Pamela Sabaugh was great as the lesbian daughter of Barb and Roger. She played Ronnie, a budding actress discovering life amidst all of the emotional wars around her.
Merope Vachlioti's scenic design was homey and comfortable in its blue wallpaper and antique furniture (each piece had been in a theatre production that the charactershad been in together). The rain coming down towards the end of the show added much realism to the play.
Lighting designer Bert Scott was allowed to spread his wings, with noticeable changes in the lights as the day progressed. The warm-to-cooler changes were magnificent.
Steven S. White's costumes were very true to the spirit of Provincetown, particularly the younger characters like Viselli and Sabaugh, who dressed in bright beachwear perfect for the last day in August. Boland looked fabulous in that swimsuit!
This is a hot script, and it brought out the best in this talented corps of actors.
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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada