Saturday, December 3, 2011

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Rooms with a Viewing By Beverly Creasey

Jeffrey Hatcher has strung together three clever monologues connected by death, or rather by a particular funeral home (and mourners familiar to all three of the deceased). His play THREE VIEWINGS (at New Repertory Theatre through Dec. 18th) begins with an acerbic little piece about an undertaker who takes a real estate agent under his wing not for financial, but for personal profit. It’s a rather creepy practice whereby the agent can hand out her business card to the vulnerable bereaved …a sort of “Sorry for your loss: I can get you top dollar for your mother/father’s house now that she/he’s gone” arrangement.

Joel Colodner plays the funeral director so effectively that he makes us understand his desperate motives (He’s in love with the woman), something the second piece almost achieves but doesn’t quite. Christine Power plays a jewel thief who works wakes. She approaches an open casket, leans in to kiss the departed and off come the rings and brooches. Hatcher would like us to laugh as if it were Grace Kelly heisting a diamond necklace in To Catch a Thief. Granted, Power does have that cool, sophisticated demeanor down pat but Hatcher’s dialogue makes her crass and the ghoulishness of the whole operation can’t be undone, in my opinion, by a shocking revelation at the very last moment.

The third monologue has Mafioso jokes galore (not to mention a spam casserole) for the amusement of the audience but I didn’t feel that the mounting problems of a widow (Adrianne Krstansky) left destitute by a “wheeler-dealer” husband were to be taken seriously, given all the shtick. On the plus side, director Jim Petosa’s cast certainly keeps us interested and the hour and a half (without an intermission) zips by.

I’ve been thinking about THREE VIEWINGS and its subject matter. I saw the show at a matinee with an audience full of senior citizens who were not laughing at the “elderly” humor. Not at all. The younger members of the audience laughed heartily at the joke about rushing a cremation, for instance. I cringed. Maybe the closer you are to death, the less funny it seems. Maybe the more wakes you attend, the more appreciation you have for their power to comfort. Then again, I find Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One hilarious. Go figure.