Good things really do come in very small packages as evidenced by the delightful new gem of a four character (each very interesting), two act comedy called PRATFALLS, written by Holly Webber that is produced by Ground Up Productions at the very tiny and ultra intimate Dorothy Strelsin Theatre – 312 West 36th Street at 8th Avenue – The Abington Theatre Complex – with Jenn Thompson directing. I suggest seeing this one immediately.
Jenn Thompson is the Co-Artistic Director of TACT – The Actors’ Company Theatre that gives old plays a second chance and most recently had a huge hit with Neil Simon’s LOST IN YONKERS. This time out Ms. Thompson has been able to direct a new work. Quite ably. She does so with as much care and detail as she is known for.
PRATFALLS is a very well written, smart and extremely funny play that takes place in the summer of 2003 on a roof top of a five floor walkup in Brooklyn where four people and a fiber glass owl explore a multitude of subjects.
The roof top set and lighting design by Travis McHale is right on. And Ms. Thompson uses the small space to full advantage. Costumes by Amanda Jenks are character appropriate.
Roy Demeure (a versatile Victor Verhaeghe) fancies himself a failure. A funny failure. At 47 he is still doing stand up comedy, an occasional odd acting job and drying dogs to pay the rent. He’s been is Alcoholics Anonymous for five years. He has been helping Frances Biegler (a quirky Amelia White with a quick retort) a 70ish English neighbor who hasn’t many other friends and is afraid of having to go into a nursing home. He’s been helping her carry her groceries and they share some friendly moments atop the roof.
Elena Lehmann (a guarded Kate Middleton who begins to thaw) is a guilt ridden corporate lawyer who lost her husband in a freak accident and who by chance saw Roy’s act when she went out with a couple of girl friends to the comedy club whereupon she went home with him and had wild, passionate sex – a one night stand. Or so she thought.
While demonstrating the end of his act that Elena thought could be improved he falls down a flight of stairs breaking both arms. More guilt for Elena. She then helps nurse him back to good health. As does Frances. It’s an odd and very real romantic comedy that follows with Frances’ jealousy rearing its camouflaged head. There’s a reason she is so lonely.
The fourth character appears late in the second act but is spoken about early on. He is Laird (a somewhat nerdy Matthew Baldiga), the young nephew of the landlord who has taken over the first floor apartment that Frances had requested – so as not to have to climb all those stairs to her rent controlled apartment. But nepotism won out. Besides he has a nervous whippet that he’s rescued. He’s the main reason I think that the dog is so nervous. The fiber glass owl has an eleven o’clock importance that ties everything together nicely during the famous blackout of August 14, 2003.
Holly Webber is a new writer with original ideas of character and very funny unexpected dialogue with heart. Just seeing Roy and Elena hold feet with one another as he woos her with his broken arms is just one fine example. It’s a charming, warm hearted comedy that crackles with sharp wit. You’ll appreciate the title even more after you see PRATFALLS. And you should see it ASAP. Through May 19th 2012.
www.GroundUpProductions.org general tickets $25.00 A VERITABLE BARGAIN!
Photos: Randy Morrison
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