A frail-looking woman, her white hair tied up in a simple purple ribbon, enters a peach-and-white nursing-home waiting room and plaintively asks if anyone has seen her husband. The question, asked with a heartbreaking, bewildered innocence by the haunting Marcia Haufrecht, is a startlingly lucid depiction of the loss of clarity that can come with advanced age.
But almost nothing else in Common Basis Theatre's production of Grace Cavalieri's Pinecrest Rest Haven worked as well as that opening moment. Cavalieri's ambitious script - a woozy amalgam of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Waiting In The Wings, and The Golden Girls - is as dazed and confused as the addled senior citizens she tries to chronicle. There are too many characters and ideas fighting for stage time, and scene after scene falls flat from the plethora of good intentions that Cavalieri jams willy-nilly into a bare two hours.
Directed without a single spark of creativity by Amy Coleman, the one thing this production had going for it was the presence of Haufrecht, who effortlessly rose above the obvious material and gave a luminous, moving performance of concise truth. The piercing fear in her eyes said it all, and then some. The only other performer to come close to the marvelous Haufrecht was Ray Trail as a randy resident of the nursing home - he was funny, touching, and totally delightful as he hit on nearly every female in sight. The rest of the cast offered pedestrian interpretations of their stock roles, while the drab sets and costumes (Gabriela Niscolescu) and lighting (Bethany Bowen) did little to help (or hinder) the ailing script.
But there was always Marcia Haufrecht at the center of it all, making magic out of nothing with just a gesture, look, or sound. As the late, great Madeline Kahn once said about her own work: "I have appeared in crap, but I have never treated it as such. Never." Haufrecht obviously goes by that same standard, and her performance displayed a level of professionalism that most actors would do well to emulate.
(Also featuring Linda Creamer, Christopher Kerson, Anya Migdal, Jicky Schnee, Kristin Smith, Nick Stallone, Marie Vassallo.)
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Copyright 2001 Doug DeVita