By David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Nicolas Murphy
Starring Francie Moon and Owen Robertson
Cornerstone Theatre Company, Orlando FL
New England mill town people all seem to have two things in common – the conviction the world will never give them an even break, and they would never break with the pack and move away. That describes Margie (Moon); she just got laid off from the dollar store because she has to care for her metal deficient daughter. By chance she runs into her old boyfriend Mike (Robertson) who got out of Southie and into med school. He lives on Chestnut Hill and has no intention of going home even though it’s on the T. They banter and she invites herself to his birthday party, he cancels, but she shows up anyway and meets his wife (Cherise James) who is dying to hear some real stories about his youth. Margie ponies up, and that’s about the end of his marriage. Margie returns to the bingo hall, her pride intact and her poverty guaranteed along with her loyalty to her pack.
This may be the most realistic of Lindsay-Abaire’s works, and then one I like best. The accents are real; the people could all be my in-laws, and the story completely consistent with the Working Class Ideal in what’s left of New England’s past prosperity. Moon’s desperate but faithful mother is both well grounded and beautifully realized on stage. Robertson comes across as a younger John Goodman, good natured and duplicitous and the Man with a Past. Off to the side is Greek chorus of foulmouthed friends and enemies, Sue Clohan is the Landlady permanently in fear of not getting paid (a real risk, don’t get me wrong) and Angel Allen as the tough girl who doesn’t take any non sense form anyone. Both are experts at stripping off any subtly in Margie’s position, they speculate incorrectly and confidently and hide their own fear and misery. Garrett Jurss plays Margie’s ex-boss Stevie and while the women at the Bingo Hall accuse him of gayness he’s just one more of the Desperate Living perma-locals. Lastly we have Cherise James as the doctor’s wife. Her race plays into the denouement of this story, although the issue isn’t so much “Black or White,” but a more general “Us or Them.” Outsiders, beware!
Probably the most remarkable aspect of the presentation is the set. We begin with a simple pair of flats with a single door, then we discover a rotating stage, and after we return from intermission the plywood have been replaced with a Robb and Stucky show room, complete with leather couches and those funny little painted straw balls they set on shelves so they don’t look ominous. All this furniture must have cost a buck or two, and it’s gorgeous. Spectacle and heart, both are abundant on this little stage.
For more information on Cornerstone Theatre Company please visit http://www.cornerstonetheatrecompany.com/