Monday, December 24, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey MILE 26.2

Act I of Leah Nanako Winkler’s TWO MILE HOLLOW (@ Apollinaire through Jan 20th) reminded me a little of Charles Busch’s wild send-up of those 1950’s Annette Funicella / Frankie Avalon BEACH movies. Winkler certainly catches Busch’s over the top spirit but to sustain that level of outrageous hilarity, the liveliness has to increase exponentially. Act I is hilarious but only in waves. The success of outsized farce depends on brazen momentum and Winkler’s parody of rich white families picks up steam, then runs out of it, then gathers it again and runs out again.

The plot, if there is one, hinges on a fraught reunion, when, after the patriarch’s death, the surviving family members return to their sprawling beach house in the Hamptons, to divvy up possessions, and revisit old grievances, before it is sold. Mother (Paola M. Ferrer) is a terror. Daughter Mary (Christa Brown) is a basket case. Two insecure brothers (Armando Rivera and Mauro Canepa) fight over father’s motorcycle/metaphor (Don’t ask) and Jasmine Brooks, as the latter brother’s personal assistant, tags along in the first act and becomes the focus of the second.

The beach house, we’re told, has a strange way of “affecting” its inhabitants. Evidently, it’s haunted by the ghost of the late father who seems, in his afterlife, to have grown fond of lightening strikes. Peculiarly, the HOLLOW affects the play, too, turning Act II into a serious attempt at “message” drama, pontificating about being “true to oneself.” This carnival of the bizarre is a marathon of unwieldy dialogue and nonsensical allusions to weighty dramas by Chekov and Tennessee Williams… not to mention Hitchcock when mother and daughter engage in earsplitting (Caw Caw) bird-shrieks.

Speaking of carnivals, David Reiffel’s delightful sound design whisks us from “The Days of Wine and Roses” to Saint-Saens’ gorgeous “Aquarium,” with clever original music thrown in for the wonderfully goofy “Extraordinary.” Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques knows her way around comedy and there are plenty of opportunities for merriment but the playwright moves the target on herand for me, it was too late for the rather weak socio-political points about race and status. The revelations come tardy as well. (We didn’t even know there were any for most of the play. What is a revelation anyway, without suspense and anticipation to precede it?)

What there is in TWO MILE HOLLOW is an abundance of silliness, like the zany, recurring mispronunciationswhich made me giggle every time because I didn’t see them coming… Even though I knew there’d be more of them. So, if you can shift gears half way through, you may “get” what the playwright is trying to accomplish. There is an exhibit of photos in the lobby which makes the point that the play missed. You’ll cringe when you see Lawrence Oliver in blackface as Othello (hovering over a young, white Maggie Smith). The exhibit doesn’t include brown/black faced opera singers but it should. The Metropolitan Opera still presents white singers “bronzed up” as Othello and as Aida, broadcasting the performances without shame, to millions of viewers in theaters via HD simulcast. No one bats an eyelash!