In a decidedly “bare bones” production of The Funeral Director’s Wife – written by Beth Gilleland and Kathleen Douglass now running at Richmond Shepard Theatre – 309 East 26th Street at 2nd Avenue – through June 27th a cast of four perform before an audience seated at right angles to the playing area. There are four silver chairs, a table, a telephone, a lonely potted plant, and a black curtain where two of the actors make costume changes so that we know they are portraying different folk in the small town in Iowa where the narrator of this epic piece of drudgery, the funeral director’s wife, informs us of the difficulties that she has experienced being married to the town’s sole means of burial – where “everyone’s dying to meet” the young, handsome and saintly guy.
After fifteen minutes of this ninety minute dead end production I completely lost interest. Was it the mugging of Lisa Margolin who has the distinction of playing “the women” one of which is a cancer victim with nursing child choosing a coffin and a nurse who has her patient (Sam Platizky) inform her that his “penis has died” and then (figuratively) exposing his penis to her saying that “today is the viewing”? It’s one of the many lame “funeral convention” jokes that abound here. As one character says “there’s fun in funerals.” Could it have been the addition of the many a cappella songs – Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have (nice harmonies)? Actually, they were good. Intrusive but they managed to keep me awake. Poor Sam Platizky. He has the unfortunate task of delivering all the many not-very-funny jokes/ anecdotes. I have to say he does so with great courage and conviction.
As the wife, Anais Alexandra, has a pleasant speaking voice when she isn’t tripping over her lines. Paul Geiger, as her husband, does best – with a fine demeanor befitting a funeral director – but it’s a bland part in what is not a play. It’s not a revue. It’s a hodge podge of stories with some music and mime. Speaking of which. The director, Richmond Sheppard, teaches mime. But the cast is obviously oblivious to his teachings.
Did you hear the one about the guy who had tickets for The Funeral Director’s Wife but died on the way to the theatre? Boy, was he one lucky stiff! Ba Da Boom! May The Funeral Director’s Wife rest in peace. Amen.
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