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I attended opening night of Road Less Traveled Theater’s final production of the season, the regional premiere of “The Country House” by award-winning playwright Donald Margulies. As soon as I arrived home to write this review, I whipped out my thesauri – yes, I have more than one, and no, I do not just use the Internet – to look up all the synonyms I could find for “excellent,” i.e., eminently good. Here are a few: top-drawer, superb, great, first-rate. And my favorite, capital. “The Country House” is all of these and more. It is smart, sophisticated, witty, and heartfelt. It sparkles and shines from start to finish.
I think I have said everything that needs to be said to convince you to go see this play as soon as you can, if only to feel as elated as I do right now. But if you want to know more about this stellar production, read on.
Top-drawer: the play. It is a family drama and very funny comedy by the brilliant Donald Margulies. It is also a satire on the excesses and absurdities of the TV and movie industries and what can sometimes be the preciousness and grandiosity of theatah people. It is about a family whose business is entertainment, and who has lost its best and brightest member to cancer. The story unfolds as they gather a year later in their country house in the Berkshires to mark the anniversary of the death of Cathy. As the week progresses, family dynamics and relationship histories are revealed; grief, regret, longing and hormones are exposed; and we are witness to the love, pain, and sometimes ridiculousness of these very real people. The dialogue is bright, sharp and intelligent. There are no false notes anywhere, whether in laughter, tears, anger, grief or rage. Top-drawer.
Superb: the cast. Barbara Link LaRou as Anna, mother of Cathy and famous actress of the old school; Renee Landrigan as Susie, daughter of Cathy and a hormonal college girl with an acerbic tongue; Peter Palmisano as Walter, widower of Cathy and an older, successful movie director; Christian Brandjes as Elliot, brother of Cathy and a nebbishy guy who cannot, will not get out of his own way. Rounding out the cast is Michael (Chris Kelly), a family friend and very hot and successful TV actor who is catnip to women; and Nell (Kristin Tripp Kelley), the much-younger-than-him-not-famous actress/girlfriend of Walter. Their timing is spot on. They play off of one another effortlessly which, of course, means they are very talented and they worked and worked and worked at it. And each feels very real in their roles, which is such an important element in a play about people who do make-believe for a living. I believed every one of them. Again, no false note anywhere. They are a great – oops, superb - ensemble cast.
Great: the director. RLT Artistic Director Scott Behrend has a top-drawer play to work with, chose a superb cast, and he runs with them. Scene changes are integrated into the production with cast movement and changes in lighting. Dialogue never flags. It is crisp and quick. Movement is fluid. He allows each of his actors to express who they are while keeping it all moving along. Great work.
First-rate: the set. It's beautiful and looks every bit the country house of wealthy people. There are enough doors and a staircase to keep people moving, and to allow for some comedic moments, including one hilarious one. The lighting and sound meld together beautifully in a raging thunderstorm that puts out the electricity. Cell phones and hurricane lamps are then used to great effect. The costumes complement each of the characters. This is the result of a first rate crew: Set design by Dyan Burlingame; lighting design by John Rickus; sound designby Eric Burlingame; costume design by Maura Price. And a word for the Fight Director, Adam Rath (yes, there is even a real fight). First-rate all.
Capital: the entire production. The play. The actors. The direction. The technical crew. All capital, my dear, capital. Go see it.
A Country House
Fri Apr 28th → Sun May 21st
Days: Sun, Thu, Fri, Sat
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