There are telltale signs throughout PERFECTLY NORMEL PEOPLE written and directed by the husband and wife team of Thomas and Judy Heath which is being presented as part of the FringeNYC festival that they have been heavily influenced by some heavy duty television sitcoms – Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, That ‘70s Show and the King of Comedy himself Mr. Neil Simon BUT with enough good will and surprises to make their show an endearing, earnest and extremely laugh out loud comedy with its own eccentricities and memorable characters.
With a great amount of humor they are able to ground the play with a heart of gold. Underlying all the laughs is the understanding of what constitutes “family” whether from Kansas or NYC in this clash of cultures and coming of age story of Hadley Smith (a terrific Bronson Taylor) who leaves his parent’s farm in Kansas to embark on a writing career studying at New York University where he lives not in a dorm but in the off campus home of the Normellino family in Forest Hills Queens.
The story is narrated by Hadley all grown up (Sean X. Marino) remembering his time and period of adjustment with the Normellinos circa 1981. Mama Connie (Vicki Kelly) daughter Angela (Lara Allred) a waitress, her macho brother Johnny (Patrick Arnheim) a postal worker, cousin Frankie (Tripp Hamilton) who has lost both parents and has visions and conversations with the Virgin Mary and Grandpa Roma (Ross Magoulas) who is deaf and has stopped speaking after the death of his wife. The extended family includes Aunt Margaret Roma (Jacqualine M. Helmer) forever squabbling with her sister Margaret and her daughter Bernadette (Katie Holland) who wants to become a Marine Biologist.
In short vignettes the story unfolds as Hadley tries to fit in with this odd assortment of people. Amazingly he does. A bit confused but accepting he is nicknamed Lefty and is given instructions concerning his “walk” and his “talk” that transforms him from a farmer boy into something resembling Johnny and Frankie. Hadley is no “rube” he is smart and very well mannered but gets caught up in their family saga while falling for Angela.
The scenes on a front porch swing between them are delightful. You may wonder where all this is heading but Thomas and Judy Heath have come up with a few twists that are great – with a knock out ending.
I foresee a wonderful future for Perfectly Normel People. How refreshing to laugh and be touched at the same time.
The Players Theatre 115 MacDougal Street
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