Oh what a tangled web...

These People

By Chris Widney
Directed by Mary Catherine Burke
Golden Day Productions
American Theatre of Actors
314 W. 54th St. (212/868-4444)
Equity showcase (closes Oct. 30)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

These People is a new comedy about a family torn by lies. It had its moments, a mostly talented cast, and a poignant ending. However, there are some aspects of the show that seem superfluous and at times silly. It has much potential but could use some excisions and streamlining of the plot.

The play follows the Shirls as they try to cope with the fact that the husband, Jerry (Bruce Sabath) has been arrested for tax evasion. He is about to be locked up for two years, but the wife, Cheryl (Rita Rehn), does not want that to affect their standing in their country club. Furthermore, she does not wish to tell their daughter, Hillary (Paris Rose Yates) the truth for fear that she can't handle it. Against his instincts, Jerry begins to do everything he can to assuage the woman he loves, by attempting to cover the truth, which is in fact what got him into trouble with the IRS in the first place.

To complicate matters, the members of the board of the country club have lukewarm feelings towards the Shirls and do not wish to help cover up his fraud. Richard (James Young) seems indifferent toward Jerry but adores Cheryl because she used to work at Hooters and has certain amenities. Pearl (Debra Kay Anderson) loathes Cheryl because she beats her at tennis and has all the men staring at her all the time. The final member of the board, Roland, who was represented by a cardboard cutout, seems indifferent. The final member of the cast (William Demeritt) played many characters including a ballboy, some club members, and the family dog.

The show had funny moments, but the humor began to wear thin halfway through. Some of the dialog meanders. Additionally, the use of the cardboard cutout and the guy playing random other characters (especially the talking dog) was campy and contrived. On the contrary, the end of the show worked well, and the show's moral is pointed and clear.

The cast was gleefully over-the-top and melodramatic, in keeping with the material. The argument and fight scenes were animated and energetic. Sabath was charming and effective as Jerry. Both Rehn and Anderson were feisty and fierce as the sparring tennis players. Finally, as the young girl, Yates was both bratty and innocently sweet.

Mary Catherine Burke's direction made impressive use of the various areas of the stage. The show moved along at a decent pace, too. Michael V. Moore's set design was both effective and practical. Jessica Gaffney's costumes were bright and colorful. Eric DeArmon's sound design had a good variety of classical and jazzy pieces playing during scene changes.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Seth Bisen-Hersh