Directed by Gillian Salerno-Rebic
Set Designer – Charles Wallace
Costume Designer – Shanna Gobin
Lighting Designer – Kenneth Farnsworth
Sound Designer – Kenneth Farnsworth
Properties Designer – Terrie Justus
Hair/Wigs/Make-up Designer – Shanna Gobin
Stage Manager – Kary Cardenas
Dotty – Caitlin Mills-Duree
Hamel – Ian Mead Moore
Zena – Veronica Day
Dan – Aaron Sanchez
All photos by Mike Hathaway
Reviewed Performance 2/15/2014
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Out of Sterno by Deborah Zoe Laufer is a wickedly funny, absurdist fairy tale on modern life. Dotty serves as the main character and as the narrator. Her overly sunny disposition reminds you of a Disney princess from Cinderella …or is it Sleeping Beauty? She is generically cheerful, meaning she is cheerful like a vacuous tour guide of a theme park. She is living in an apartment she hasn’t left for seven years, and she is clueless about the real world. Of course, her world is about to be shattered when she suspects that her husband Hamel is having an affair with white trash Zena, and she leaves her idyllic home to follow him. She runs across a bevy of characters – all stereotypes – that have differing views about the roles of women in society. This play is like a sketch comedy that runs amok, but unlike a sketch comedy that only entertains; this one communicates its message on the importance of being true to oneself. It is a wonderful play.
For this over-the-top comedy to work and to hold the attention of the audience for two hours, it requires four top notch actors, and all four actors in this production deliver.
Dotty is played with full conviction by Caitlin Mills-Duree. It requires a large amount of suspension of disbelief for the audience to believe she hasn’t left her apartment in seven years and is happy about it. Mills-Duree is so committed to the role that as an audience we buy it wholeheartedly. As the plot twists and turns begin to avalanche, Dotty slowly transforms into a three-dimensional character and Mills-Duree plays the realism of the role effectively with genuine tears, and believable bouts of insecurity.
Ian Mead Moore, is the philandering husband Hamel, Moore is a very handsome man, and in the program he acknowledges with great humor his weight gain. The casting couldn’t be more perfect because his physical appearance and use of his body perfectly match his character’s requirements. Hamel is a man with matinee good looks that have somewhat faded. The pudgy mid-section of his body indicates how his looks are quickly going away. What makes Moore’s performance so fun to watch is he plays Hamel as dashing stud, blissfully ignorant that his clothes fit too tightly on him, and are inappropriate for his age. His performance, showing his complete lack of awareness of how he is no longer swoon worthy, adds immensely to the comedy. He also lands every joke and pun with great timing.
Zena is riotously played by Veronica Day. She is authentic in portraying the stereotype of a New Jersey hairdresser. Zena is brash, loud, garish, self-centered, pushy, and drops f-bombs. She is also a woman who is slightly over the hill but is trying to retain her youth. She is a firecracker of a character and while this type of character would wear thin and be cloying, Day makes her fascinating, and unexpectedly likeable with her impeccable line delivery and by delivering insults with a radiant smile Day also makes each of her f-bombs cause an explosion of laughter in the audience.
Aaron Sanchez is credited with playing Dan in the program. The truth is he plays a myriad of characters of which Dan is only one of them. He plays delivery men, patrons at Zena’s beauty salon, a pregnant teenager from the South, a militant feminist, etc. Each character is completely different and the audience at times would mumble “Oh look he’s coming on” in anticipation of the next zany character will appear next as he enters from off stage and all that can be seen is his silhouette. I’d describe the characters more I’d rather not include a spoiler. Suffice to say one character “pats her weave” and it triggered guffaws from the audience.
The costuming by Shanna Gobin captures the cartoonish aspects of each character and adds visual sight gags to the comedy. The wig for Zena is perfect, as is the garish makeup. Because most of the characters are stereotypes, it is important for the audience to identify these people by sight, and this is accomplished with every costume.
The set, designed by Charles Wallace, is too clunky. He attempts to capture realism in what is basically a surreal fairytale. While the color scheme of bright pink with green polka dots is appropriate, the set is imposing and not always well thought out. At one point, part of the wall “descends” onto the stage and reveals seating for the scenes which happen on a bus. While finding real bus seats and installing them on the “descending” set is commendable, it also requires the performers to get on the bus from the wrong side which jars with the realism of the set.
Kenneth Farnsworth designed the lights and the sound. The many sound effects throughout are wonderfully funny. The lighting, though, isn’t very effective. The stage is lit proscenium style but the actual set is in a modified thrust, and because of this, there are areas that aren’t lit evenly.
Terrie Justus must have had a field day locating all the zany props required for this show. The papier-mâché toilet that makes its sudden appearance in the show is a panic. Bravo!
Gillian Salerno-Rebic directed, and the result is a mixed bag. Salerno-Rebic elicits wonderful comedic performances out of the actors but it is in the actual staging where the play falls flat. While the slapstick comedy works, there are no interesting stage pictures, and none of the blocking enhances the characters’ moods, temperaments or relationships. Quite a few scenes happen in Zena’s beauty salon, but they are crammed into one side of the stage, whereas the opposite end of the stage is barely used. She also veers the play off course near the end by abruptly changing the pace and tone of the play. The result? It gives the impression that Dotty may commit an act of horrifying violence which is completely out of character, the play’s tone, and not supported by the plot. If this was an actor’s choice, as a director she should have reigned in the performer. The dialogue spoken in the script doesn’t support the gritty and grim realism that suddenly takes hold of the play in the last scene. While the plot requires Dotty to become a woman living on her own terms, the directorial shift of mood from comedy to O’Neill-type drama is too abrupt and heavy handed for the audience to maintain its suspension of disbelief.
Out of Sterno is a fun, fun, fun play. I enjoyed the performance and found myself laughing and smiling nearly nonstop. The script and actors deliver in spades. While some of the technical aspects are brilliant, others lacked, but not enough to prevent me from recommending this play.
I must take a moment to congratulate Rover Dramawerks on their new space. Out of Sterno debuts their new theatre location. The comfortable lobby, easy to find location, and extremely comfortable seats will undoubtedly make this a successful venue.
OUT OF STERNO
221 W. Parker Road, Suite 580, Plano, TX 75023
Runs through March 1st
Thursday - Saturday at 8:00pm. Ticket prices are $16.00 Thursdays, and $20.00 Fridays and Saturdays. Seniors and students get a $2.00 discount. Groups of 10-19 get $2.00 off each ticket, and groups of 20+ get $4.00 off.
For info and to purchase tickets: www.roverdramawerks.com Or call their box office at 972-849-0358.