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Miss Witherspoon

Cyrano’s Theatre Company Presents:

 

Miss Witherspoon

by
Christopher Durang

Runs Aug. 16 - Sept. 8, 2013

 

Reviewed by Robert Pond

Miss Witherspoon is a lecture couched in a play that humorously borders on a pratfall comedy about the world’s failure to ‘get it’.  It might be said that it is inventive to have actors sermonizing the audience. The play suggests that we know the problems, but we don’t seem to be able to right the wrongs.  At the center of Mr. Durang’s whirlwind is Veronica played by Tamar Shai. Veronica has committed suicide and is, as it were, sentenced to go back (to life) again and again. Once leaving her birth world, Veronica’s is not all that anxious for a re-run despite the promise of change. Change is not, we find, necessarily for the better. In moments of clarity, the production is very funny, hysterical when you realize that the world’s ills may not be all that soluble.

 

The directing design is so often an election of style. Krista Schwarting’s work in the first act, more than the rewarding activity of the second, was quizzical. The actors didn’t always relate to each other.  It was, at times, a stand and deliver presentation akin to what we see in some musicals and too many operas. That particular choreography didn’t seem to temper the threat of upstaging.  As the production got on step, the play seemed to returned to more interesting staging. The fast forward scene was particularly inventive and well staged.

There were some real A-list talents on stage, though some of the shouting takes away from the opportunities to act. As Veronica, Tamar Shai’s reputation of excellence carries her through. Tamar has wonderful comedic timing and her dry treatment of the humor makes it even more enjoyable. She has a ‘take’ on comedy lines that hints of the famous ‘takes/responses’ of Johnny Carson, who learned from Jack Benny.  The ‘take’ extends the humor of lines, funny or not.  Vivian Melde as Maryamma is a graceful and entertaining foil as she counsels Veronica and us.  Jill Sowerwine as ‘the Mothers’ was as impressive as she was entertaining. Her characters seem to be mothers in need of a license or, at least, counseling themselves. Ms Sowerwine, in her mournful way, is a very funny talent. Her ‘Mothers’ roles, at the edge of chaos, have that look of wonderment, which translates to a bizarre innocence. Alex Lannin, in multiple roles, is Cyrano’s good luck actor as he cheers up and calms any stage he is on. His performance of a Gandalf-like character is particularly entertaining.  Janna Shaw, as the Teacher, performs a role that engenders our sympathy; she attempts to calm an explosive mom. Teachers will agree that there should be medals for such combat. Janna’s expressive face has that look of courage under fire.

The set and lighting were certainly accommodating to the play, but the sound effects tested your fillings.

Miss Witherspoon is one of those off-the-wall comedies that is accessible to all and to some a work to study. It’s an entertaining view of the world and it is a good time at the Cyrano’s theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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