STEALING HOMEBy Pat Cook
Director - Byron Holder
Assistant Director - Linda Fullhart
Stage Manager - Emery Lancaster
Set Decoration - Abel Casillas and Dixie Brophy
Set Construction - Richard Brown and Ritchie Brown
Light and Sound Board Operator - Paul Pennington
Costume Coordinator - Charis Szczurek
Pug - Billy Szczurek
Officer Doughberg - Chuck Barlow
Gretchen - Dana Harrison
Hunter - David Westbay
Phoebe/Angelina - Heather Kenslow
Joan - Kelly Morris
Cecil - Patrick Lynwood Henry
Zelda - Rae Harvill
Imogene - Sheila D. Rose
Beulah - Suzy Dotson
Reviewed Performance: 5/5/2012
Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I'm a firm believer that if anything goes wrong in a play the last component to point the finger at is the acting. This holds true with director Byron Holder's vision of Stealing Home; in fact, I will not hold Mr. Byron Holder responsible either, only Pat Cook- the playwright. There is an old law of playwriting that states if you introduce a gun to the audience in Act I, you must be prepared for a character to shoot it in Act III. There are no guns in Stealing Home but there is a funeral home. The funeral home is the elephant in the room. Pat Cook has no interest acknowledging in a comedic way, how growing up in such an environment could shape the lives of the family that lives in Green Meadows Funeral Home. Never mind a funeral home somewhere in Texas.
The play contains a lot of plotting with very little motivation behind the story. I won't spoil the unveiling of the plot's intended surprises, only to explain that the title Stealing Home holds a double meaning. Cecil and his partner Pug are robbing the Green Meadows home only to be caught red-handed. The owner Beulah is unfazed by this robbery attempt because she believes Cecil to be her only son, Jimmy, that went missing 25 years earlier when he was seven years old.
Cecil plays along with this scenario assuming ("stealing") the identity of her son Jimmy, making himself at home. This proves an inconvenience to Beulah's three daughters as Jimmy may inadvertently disrupt their own secret plans towards the family business. The rest of the plot is full of twists and turns along the way but will bear little consequence to a person's enjoyment of the play.
The play ultimately does not take itself too seriously and the actors are keenly aware of that, keeping things light and moving along at a brisk pace. Billy Szczurek and Patrick Lynwood Henry play Pug and Cecil. They open up the play promisingly enough with the difficult feat of doing the first ten minutes in sheer blackout using nothing but flashlights. Byron Holder's staging of their shenanigans is impeccable in its timing, and the first of many scenes that I have a strong appreciation for. Mr. Szczurek's performance as Pug is full of high energy and there are a few times that his absence leaves a void in the other cast members energy level. Mr. Henry is a capable lead as Cecil and it is refreshing to see the actor make strong, less conventional choices by not acting as a foil to Pug's antics, but instead showing genuine affection towards his best buddy.
Suzy Dotson as Beulah is perfectly cast. She effortlessly epitomizes sweet, southern comfort and comes across as the most natural and relaxed performer onstage. The three sisters are a solid unit. Dana Harrison as Gretchen is appropriately icy in her demeanor. She has a looming and commanding voice. Sheila Rose as Imogene has a tricky role as the "spooky" sister, but unfortunately is directed to play her as a witch. This seems to come from a different play as I believe the "spooky" the playwright has in mind is more of the morbid, deadpan kind and not the manic and kooky. In a play that already has a lot of manic energy, that contrast is more fitting when paired against the command of Ms. Harrison's Gretchen. Rae Harvill, as the passively sweet Zelda, practically steals the show with her performance. She shares a sweet connection with Pug about her love of dogs. This scene gives a glimpse of the playwright's untapped potential to expose depths to the characters that he is unfortunately all too willing to explore at the surface level.
Kelly Morris plays Joan who immediately doesn't trust Cecil. She does a nice, believable job of slowly letting her guard down as certain events progress. The rest of the cast is full of capable players including Chuck Barlow as Officer Doughberg, and Heather Kenslow in multiple roles showing an impressive range of caricatures.
David Westbay plays Hunter, the family attorney. He is amusing to watch when he isn't directing his monologues to the audience. I'm unaware if it is a director decision or an actor's, but there are two scenes where Mr. Westbay breaks the fourth wall, and in a play as presentational as this one it is very clear that the monologues are meant to be Hunter mumbling to himself. Breaking the fourth wall is unnecessary and possibly robs the character of some humorous moments. Mr. Westbay does have a priceless moment near the beginning of Act II as he mulls through a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo with the three sisters. The word play is cute and there a many subtle double-takes that are very well-timed.
The play makes me curious and eager to imagine future combinations of the director and his nimble cast. The show does end on a high note in the last scene of the second act; however, I will be good and not spoil the fun for those that plan to be in attendance. Suffice to say that the hard labored efforts of the cast' conviction won me over in the final 15 minutes. Ultimately my experience is a positive one.
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley Street, Grapevine, TX 76051
Limited run through May 20th
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors
To purchase tixs call 817-488-4842 or go to: www.runwaytheatre.com