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Signature stages ‘Beaches’

Alysha Umphress, Mara Davi, Beaches, Signature Theatre, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Alysha Umphress and Mara Davi in Signature’s ‘Beaches.’ (Photo by Chris Mueller; courtesy Signature Theatre)

Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Va.) presents the stage revival of hit movie “Beaches” Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. It runs through March. 23.

The play is based on the 1985 novel by Iris Rainer Dart and was later adapted into the popular 1988 movie (a gay favorite) starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. The production, which chronicles the friendship between two women, stars Mara Davi as Bertie White and Alysha Umphress as Cee Cee Bloom.

Tickets range from $29-$69. For more information, visit signature-theatre.org.

13
Feb
2014

‘Henry,’ ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Hair’

Olympia Dukakis, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Actress Olympia Dukakis performs a reading of her one-woman show ‘Rose’ at the Strathmore March 13. (Photo courtesy Strathmore)

With so many new and familiar musicals, plays and performances busting out all over, spring is an especially busy time for D.C.-area theater. And many of the season’s hottest tickets are of special interest to LGBT audiences.

Signature Theatre is premiering a musical adaptation of “Beaches” (through March 30), based on the novel previously adapted for the big screen as the 1988 tearjerker starring Bette Miller and Barbara Hershey. Signature’s out artistic director Eric Schaeffer is staging the production. Broadway veterans Alysha Umphress and Mara Davi respectively play odd couple longtime friends Cee Cee and Bertie.

Also at Signature, out director Matthew Gardiner is staging a revival of the Berthold Brecht/Kurt Weill scathing musical critique of capitalism “Three Penny Opera” (April 22-June 1). The cast features Rick Hammerly (also gay) as scheming Lucy Brown, a part played memorably by Bea Arthur in the 1950s off-Broadway version.

WSC Avant Bard is currently presenting “Orlando” (thru March 23), playwright Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virgnia Woolf’s 1928 novel about a man who becomes a woman. Talented local actor Sara Barker plays the title role. Amber Jackson directs.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington presents “Von Trapped” (March 12-14). It’s a sure-to-be gay parody of “The sound of Music” featuring those familiar characters and beloved songs but with a twist. James Ellzy is the director/choreography.

Mark Twain Prize, gay news, Washington Blade

Lily Tomlin (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Comic icon Lily Tomlin comes to the Strathmore in Bethesda, Md., on March 28. In her live act, Tomlin, who recently married longtime partner Jane Wagner, uses her familiar roster of characters like Ernestine the telephone operator and precocious brat Edith Ann to hilariously comment on the human condition. Olympia Dukakis will perform a reading of her one-woman show “Rose,” which tells of a Jewish woman who has survived major events of the 20th century, at the Strathmore on March 13.

As part of its World Stages: International Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center presents a staged reading of gay playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s “A Great Wilderness” on March 22, a story of an older man who has devoted his life to counseling teen boys not to be gay. About to retire, he takes one last client who forces him to confront his own demons.

The Keegan Theatre (located on Church Street, N.W., a half block walk from JR.’s Bar) presents “Hair” (March 15-April 12), the acclaimed ‘60s rock musical that celebrates youth, protest, free love, and, of course, hair. The show’s co-creators James Rado and Gerome Ragni shared an intimate relationship that inspired the show’s groundbreaking relaxed attitude toward sexuality.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s out artistic director Michael Kahn is staging both “Henry IV Part 1” (March 25-June 7) with Stacey Keach playing Falstaff, and the “Henry IV Part 2” (April 1-June 8) with local big talent Edward Gero in the title role.

Synetic Theatre is reviving its Helen Hayes Award-winning production of “Hamlet,” the first in its enormously successful Silent Shakespeare series, which relies on movement rather than words to tell the story. Out actor Alex Mills plays the gloomy Danish prince. It runs March 13-April 6.

Every April 12, parties are held throughout the world celebrating Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic 1961 first manned space flight. D.C.’s “Countdown to Yuri’s Night” (C2YN) offers an artistic spin on this high-science holiday by combining an art exhibition, a space-themed burlesque show, band performances and a dance party. Entertainers include New York-based burlesque star Mr. Gorgeous and out performer Patrick Doneghy. This year’s venue is the spanking new Anacostia Arts Center.

In May, gay director John Waters brings his one-man show “This Filthy World” (May 16) to the Birchmere in Alexandria. For just one performance, the Baltimore-based film legend will share insights on his journey from trash genre cult favorite to bankable Hollywood director.

Gay playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s “The Totalitarians” (June 2-29) makes its area premier in a production staged by out director Robert O’ Hara at Woolly Mammoth. Set against the backdrop of Nebraska-based political campaign, this high-energy farce pokes fun at the inanity of political language.

With “Jarman (all this maddening beauty),” force/collision pays tribute to Derek Jarman, the British avant-garde artist and filmmaker who died of an AIDS-related illness 20 years ago. A mash-up of video and live performance, “Jarman” is written by playwright Caridad Svich and will be directed and performed by the ensemble company’s out founding director John Moletress. First workshop performances are scheduled for April 17-27 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Holly Twyford, celebrated local actor and now director who is gay, is staging Factory 449’sThe Amish Project” (April 17-May 11), playwright Jessica Dickey’s account of the tragic  Amish one-room schoolhouse shootings that took place in Nickel Mines, Pa., in 2006, and its effects on the community. The production will be mounted at the Anacostia Arts Center.

On April 21, it’s the annual Helen Hayes Awards, honoring outstanding work in professional local theater from 2013. The event will be held for the first time at the National Building Museum.

Over the last weekend in May, the D.C. Queer Theatre Festival marks its third annual celebration the underrepresented voices and diversity of queer artists. The festival features new plays with themes relevant to the D.C. area and local artists with roots in the community. It also aims to meld quality theater with activism and charity.

This spring, the Rainbow Theatre Project, D.C.’s new company committed to presenting LGBT-themed plays and musicals, continues its inaugural season with one night staged readings of  gay playwright Noel Coward’s “Long Island Sound (March 17), a comedy of bad manners featuring out actor Rick Hammerly; and “Yank!”(May 5), a musical about a gay romance during World War II to be staged by Hammerly, who must be among the hardest working local theater folks this spring.

07
Mar
2014

QUEERY: Joshua Morgan

Joshua Morgan, No Rules Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Joshua Morgan (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Joshua Morgan, an actor who’s been in the region for four years, has been named the first-ever executive director of No Rules Theatre Co., an outfit with dual headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Arlington, Va.

Board chair Violet Jacobson credits Morgan with a “major transition in the past year,” including a grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation that enabled the company to create the new position. It also moved in with Signature Theatre, raised significant amounts during a November campaign and kicked off a “terrific year of shows.”

“All [occurred] under the visionary leadership of Joshua,” she says. “No Rules Theatre Co. is poised for major success.”

Morgan, a University of North Carolina School of the Arts graduate, moved to Washington from New York and has performed at Woolly Mammoth, Signature, Arena and several other established companies in the D.C. area. As a director, he helmed sold-out productions of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” for No Rules in both North Carolina and Washington and received solid reviews for his work on Neil LaBute’s “Some Girl(s)” and Andrew Hinderaker’s “Suicide.”

Morgan was born in England and raised in Los Angeles and North Carolina. He’s in a relationship with Louis Phillips and lives in Eastern Market. He enjoys cooking, yoga and tennis in his free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I came out my freshman year of college. I think I had the most difficult time telling the rest of my acting class because we were so close and I had been lying to them for a while before coming out. I was embarrassed.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

John Cameron Mitchell

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Ugh. I’m a morning person. So — Washington’s best morningspot? Tidal Basin.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

My best friend Farrell has planned three for me. One will be on an organic farm, one will be on a boat and one will be in a theater with a full show as part of the ceremony. Hopefully I don’t have three weddings.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Eating well! We have been duped in America into eating crap and it’s slowly killing us. We have to fight for good food.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

Electing George W. Bush.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Kurt Cobain dying. I was young, but my whole family was very upset.

 

On what do you insist?

Don’t do business with me on Facebook!

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I posted a picture of Louie and me in Rehoboth Beach.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“If you’re not behind, where are you? The Joshua Morgan Story”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Scoff

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I consider myself a spiritual person and definitely believe in the afterlife and reincarnation.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Use the younger generation to create change! They’re incredibly open minded and will shape the future of our community.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

Louie

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

I’m not every girl’s pet.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“The First Wives Club.” That’s basically an LGBT movie at this point.

 

What’s the most overrated social custom? 

Why can’t I have my elbows on the table when I eat?

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I’m proud of the recognition from the Helen Hayes for No Rules as the outstanding emerging theatre company back in 2012. That meant a lot to me.

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Start saving money!

 

Why Washington?

I love how embracing this arts community is. I think because the city is so transient, it’s open to new talent, which his very exciting for me and the young people I work with. It doesn’t hold on to preconceived notions as much, which I love.

16
Apr
2014

Holiday Follies begins Signature engagement

Nat King Cole, Holiday Follies, gay news, Washington Blade

Holiday Follies feature favorite holiday songs with arrangements made famous by Nat King Cole among others. (Photo public domain)

Holiday Follies, a troupe of local performers performing holiday music, begins its one-week run at Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Va.) starting Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. through Dec. 23.

The show features favorite holiday songs with arrangements made famous by The Jackson 5, Spice Girls, Nat King Cole and Frank Zappa among others. Performers include Madeline Botteri, Austin Colby, Maria Egler and more.

Tickets are $48.60. For more details, visit signature-theatre.org.

12
Dec
2013

A ‘Rose’ by any other name

Sherri L. Edelen, Momma Rose, Maria Rizzo, Louise, Gypsy, Signature Theatre, theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Sherri L. Edelen, left, as Momma Rose, and Maria Rizzo as Louise in ‘Gypsy,’ playing now at Signature Theatre. (Photo by Teresa Wood; courtesy Signature)

‘Gypsy’

Through Jan. 26

Signature Theatre

4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington

$40-99

703-820-9771

Signature-theatre.org

Ferocious is how director Joe Calarco describes “Gypsy’s” Momma Rose, the unstoppable stage mother who’ll do whatever it takes to make her kids stars.

Probably the most formidable woman’s part in musical theater history, Rose is frequently compared to Shakespeare’s Lear and playing her has been likened to climbing Mount Everest twice. Those who’ve tackled the part include Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and more recently Patti LuPone. And now it’s local actor Sherri L. Edelen’s turn to take on the iconic role at Signature Theatre in a production staged by Calarco.

Who plays Rose always prompts discussion. To do it right requires a terrific voice, acting skills and comedic flair. And while Edelen won’t be scrutinized in the same way Broadway names inevitably are, comparisons will be made. Affable and smart, Edelen isn’t bothered:  “Everyone sees how difficult and complex this woman is to play and they want to see if the actress can rise to the challenge. I let go of comparisons long ago. Every actress is different, so comparisons make no sense, really.”

But Edelen doesn’t dismiss the significance of the gig. Playing Rose is a big deal and she knows it. Until Calarco brought it up, she never thought she’d do the part. When Edelen was younger, she looked for the kind of supporting comic roles that she does so wonderfully, like the inn keeper’s unscrupulous wife in Signature’s “Les Misérables,” a superb performance for which she deservedly won a Helen Hayes Award. But as she got a little older, Edelen took on parts (and triumphed in) leading roles like Mrs. Lovett in Signature’s “Sweeney Todd” and as Margaret Johnson in “Light in the Piazza” with the Philadelphia Theatre Company. But still, Rose scared her: “She is fierce. She uses up all the energy in my body to inhabit her mind. And like those who play Lear, or any Shakespearean role really, the exploration will continue until closing and on until the next actress picks up Rose.”

“Gypsy” follows the rise of legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Set in the ‘20s, it’s an incredible backstage story featuring Momma Rose and young daughters June and Louise (later Gypsy) who criss-cross the country in pursuit of fame and fortune. The mother of all stage mothers, Rose will stop at nothing to make her girls stars on the dying Vaudeville circuit. When June quits the act, Momma focuses her suffocating attentions on the less talented Louise.

With a sensational score boasting a thrilling overture and standards like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Some People,” “Together (Small World)” and Momma’s 11th hour cri de coeur “Rose’s Turn,” “Gypsy” is routinely named by many critics to be the best Broadway musicals ever. Based loosely on Gypsy Rose Lee’s bestselling memoir, “Gypsy” premiered on Broadway in 1959. It’s the creation of true musical theater titans: Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Arthur Laurents (book). Sondheim is gay, as was Laurents who died in 2011 at 93.

During an interview for the Blade in 2004, Laurents shared an anecdote. Initially when asked to write a musical based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s bestselling biography, he wasn’t interested. But not long afterward he heard some gossip at a party. Reportedly Gypsy’s mother had had affairs women and once threw a hostile hotel manager from a fifth floor window. Laurents took the assignment. And while the musical would be called “Gypsy” for contractual reasons, it’s always really been about Rose. She’s the show’s driving force.

“I wish I had one ounce of her drive and confidence,” Edelen says. “I think playing her has made me more confident, more of a fighter for my own ideals.  No one believes in her dream like she does: Not Herbie (Rose’s boyfriend). Not her children. Not anyone. She has no support system but herself really and yet she has the strength and belief in herself to carry on.”

Signature’s artistic director Eric Schaeffer already had Edelen in mind when he made “Gypsy” a part of this year’s season. He never thought of bringing in a New York actor for the part. “We always wanted to do it with someone local. The talent pool here has gotten better and better, and we didn’t need to look beyond Washington. We’d done it before with Donna (Donna Migliaccio played Rose in Signature’s 2001 “Gypsy,” and plays the plum part Mezeppa the brassy stripper who bumps it with a trumpet in the current production) and it was time to give someone else the opportunity.”

Calarco, who’s worked with Edelen on eight shows, says she was ready to play Rose. In addition to having the voice, she understands comedy and is a great actress with a deep well from which to draw.

“If anyone can find the reason why Rose is so ferocious, it’s Sherri. She can explore that. Though it’s a musical, we play it like a play, focusing on Rose’s relationships with Herbie and daughter Louise (played here by Mitchell Hébert and Maria Rizzo, respectively).”

Rose isn’t much for introspection. As she sees it, she’s the ultimate loving mother doing her best to give her kids a fabulous life.

“I don‘t see Rose as a monster, the stage mother from hell, or a show off,” Edelen says. “I wanted to delve into why she operates the way she does, what is motivating her to behave the way she does. Only then can her vulnerability break through. … We all have joys and sorrows that shape us. Hopefully, if your readers come see the show, they can learn that she is vulnerable, just like everybody else and then you can understand what motivates her. Mr. Laurents tells you in his script and hands it to the audience on a silver platter, if they are listening.”

25
Dec
2013

Find your lost Broadway

Nova Y. Payton, Dreamgirls, Lost Songs of Broadway, Signature Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Nova Y. Payton, seen here in a ‘Dreamgirls’ promo shot, is part of ‘Lost Songs of Broadway,’ which debuts Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Signature Theatre)

Signature Theatre presents the “Lost Songs of Broadway: 1970s” as part of its cabaret series starting Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. and running through June 1.

A combination of Signature’s production of “Company,” the show features numbers from Broadway musicals that didn’t fare so well. The show features performers Nova Y. Payton, Chelsea Packard and Austin Colby.

Tickets are $42.95. Visit signature-theatre.org for more information.

23
May
2013

Will has grace

Will Gartshore, gay news, Washington Blade

Will Gartshore will be at Signature next week for a new cabaret show. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Va.) hosts “Dressed Up: A Class Conscious Cabaret” starring gay singer/actor Will Gartshore as part of its “Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret” series on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday (Aug. 16 )at 7 p.m.

Gartshore had a successful Broadway and off-Broadway career in New York during the ‘90s, but has also thrived in Washington after moving here in 2002. Performances in Signature Theater’s “Urinetown” (2005) and Roundhouse’s “A Year with Frog and Toad” have earned him critical acclaim and prestige in D.C.

Gartshore has since become a full-time lobbyist for the World Wildlife Fund, but still performs occasionally. “Dressed Up” will feature classic tunes by Gershwin, Sondheim and The Beatles, accompanied by pianist Christopher Wingert.

Admission is $24-31.15 for both nights. For more details and to purchase tickets, visit signature-theatre.org.

08
Aug
2013

Cabaret comeback

Nova Y. Payton, Dreamgirls, Lost Songs of Broadway, Signature Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

Thursday’s show at 8 p.m. features Nova Y. Payton, a Signature actress who starred in ‘Dreamgirls’ among other credits. (Photo courtesy Signature Theatre)

Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, Va.) kicks off its first “Autumn Cabaret Festival” on Wednesday at 8 p.m. with performances by Broadway actress Chelsea Packard (“Wicked,” “Hands on a Hard Body”).

Signature was inspired by the popularity of its cabaret series to start the festival, which will continue through Sept. 21. Thursday’s show at 8 p.m. features Nova Y. Payton, a Signature actress who starred in “Dreamgirls” and performed in the theater’s “Sizzlin’ Summer Cabaret Series.”

Some of the festival’s other performers include funk, soul and rock band The Hustle, Broadway actress Heidi Blickenstaff and local blues artist, Levi Stephens.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online. All-access passes are $100 and can only be purchased at the box office. For more information, visit signature-theatre.org.

29
Aug
2013

Scaled-back ‘Saigon’

Miss Saigon, Signature Theatre, Diana Huey, Kim, Theater, gay news, Washington Blade

Diana Huey as Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ at Signature Theatre. (Photo by Christopher Mueller; courtesy Signature)

‘Miss Saigon’
Through Sept. 29
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington
tickets start at $40
703-820-9771
signature-theatre.org

When “Miss Saigon” ran on Broadway in the ‘90s, there was big buzz surrounding the production’s life-sized helicopter.

The audacious prop was used to recreate the iconic photo depicting the fall of Saigon in 1975 to the Viet Kong when hordes of terrified pro-American Vietnamese fought for spots on a few C.I.A. aircrafts taking off from rooftops. Those who were left behind knew they’d likely be executed. For Signature Theatre’s version, director Eric Schaeffer — in his typical paring down fashion — merely suggests a helicopter, retaining the suspenseful element while losing the impractical spectacle.

From the composers who gave the world “Les Miserables” (Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil), the hugely successful “Miss Saigon” is a hard driving, sung through, rock opera based on Puccini’s 1904 classic “Madama Butterfly.” Its eclectic, ballad-heavy score is served beautifully here by a talented cast and a stellar 15-person orchestra tucked away on a perch behind corrugated metal panels. Despite some cloying spots and clunky lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., the music works. Memorable tunes include “The Heat Is On,” “I Still Believe,” “Why God Why?” and “The American Dream.”

Signature’s Schaeffer (who is gay) has also halved the 40-person Broadway cast, allowing his take to focus more intimately on the musical’s love story: U.S. Marine Chris (likable Gannon O’Brien) temporarily rescues wide-eyed, Vietnamese bar-girl Kim (vocal powerhouse Diana Huey) from a life of prostitution. Saigon falls and Chris goes home to Atlanta where he marries. Unknown to Chris, Kim has given birth to their son. Kim does what she has to stay alive, driven by the desire to one day reunite as a family. Eventually, Chris and his wife travel to Vietnam to meet the boy. A happy ending for all is hard to imagine.

But the best scenes of Signature’s “Miss Saigon” take place in Saigon’s sleazy hooker bar Dreamland and (later) a similar joint in Bangkok. It’s in a dimly lit, alcohol-fueled Dreamland that war-weary Marines and desperate Vietnamese civilians come together against a backdrop of feverish partying. And it comes off splendidly in Signature’s not huge MAX Theatre.

Dreamland is the domain of the Engineer, a host/pimp played by the unctuous and terrifically entertaining Thom Sesma (who played the role in the show’s second national tour). He bullies a chorus of sexy bar girls led by experienced Gigi (Cheryl Daro). The eye-catching Daro makes a big impression singing “The Movie In My Mind,” a dream about a new life in America, but unfortunately her part essentially ends there. The rest of the cast includes Erin Driscoll as Ellen, Chris’ outwardly sedate spouse. Chris Sizemore is Chris’ Marine buddy who after the war works to reunite Vietnam-born Amerasian children with their American fathers. Christopher Mueller plays menacing Thuy, an unpleasant figure from Kim’s past.

“Miss Saigon” can be melodramatic and overwrought — it’s not for everyone. But Signature offers an opportunity to see it done particularly well.

05
Sep
2013

Desperate housewife

Signature Theatre, Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill, Anthony Bowden, Christine Lahti

Christine Lahti as Carly and Anthony Bowden as her gay son Chad in ‘Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill.’ (Photo by Margot Schulman; courtesy Signature Theatre)

‘Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mill’

Through Dec. 8

Signature Theatre

4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington

703-573-SEAT

Signature-theatre.org

Fat is bad.

Lower paying professions suck.

And gay is worst of all.

These are the cardinal and frequently spoken rules of Carly, the uptight matriarch in Paul Downs Colaizzo’s terrific new play “Pride in the Falls of Autrey Mills.”

Now premiering at Studio Theatre, the young playwright’s latest effort staged by out director Michael Kahn, exposes the underbelly of the American suburban dream, showing exactly what it is that makes a privileged yet essentially miserable family tick.

The Falls of Autrey Mill is a neighborhood — a grandly named nouveau riche enclave in an unnamed southern city. Colaizzo imagines a place rife with leafy cul-de-sacs where quietly desperate lives unfold behind Roman-columned facades. It’s here that casually bigoted Carly (stage and screen veteran Christine Lahti) perseveres to distance herself from her tacky working class roots, striving to be today’s June Cleaver with the picture-perfect family. But as her two sons Tommy and Chad (played by Christopher McFarland and Anthony Bowden, respectively) move into adulthood and her mostly absent husband Louie (Wayne Duvall) tires of keeping up with the Jones and looks for satisfaction elsewhere, Carly loses the grip on the illusion she’s worked so hard to create, and the results are chaotic.

“Pride” takes place over several days preceding a visit from a photographer who’s scheduled to snap the family’s portrait for the community newsletter. Carly has won best flower garden in the pricey hood and the triumph must be chronicled. It’s a big deal for Carly, but her family isn’t cooperating. Home from college, Chad announces to his mother that he’s gay and has a boyfriend. The older son Tommy tells her that he’s forgoing law school to manage a Chuck E. Cheese type restaurant, a job that he finds personally fulfilling. And her husband is showing signs of wanting to leave home altogether. The play is about how Carly and the family process these revelations.

Like their shoddily made but well-appointed home (compliments of scenic designer James Noone), Carly’s family is also falling apart behind its impressive exterior. She may appear all sugary sweetness and light, but just below the surface she’s tough as nails. Further down she’s extremely vulnerable. Darkly handsome Bowden’s Chad comes off impatient and angry, ostensibly irritated by his parents’ inability to accept his sexuality. But he too isn’t exactly what he seems. Beneath his brusque shell lies a needy, love-deprived, mixed-up adolescent.

McFarland is endearingly funny as the overweight and forever hungry Tommy, who awkwardly walks about foraging for food with his hands bound in big white mitten-like bandages (the result of freakish household accidents). He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s eager to connect with his parents, but he’s also careful to protect himself from their harsh judgment. And Duvall is perfect as the good ‘ol boy Louie stuck in a stale marriage.

From the moment the lights come up, you know exactly who Carly is. Lahti has taken the time to create a character not only with words but also her body and movements. She wrings the material for all its humor and pathos. It’s a commanding performance and a pleasure to watch.

But unlike so many icy WASP perfectionists (like the one Mary Tyler Moore played in the film “Ordinary People” for instance), Carly‘s heart isn’t entirely frozen. There might be hope for this family yet.

Following up “Torch Song” at Studio Theatre, “Pride” is director Kahn’s second local (and excellent) effort this season outside of his usual domain, the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Though very different, both plays explore family and being gay.

Last season at Signature, playwright Colaizzo garnered big attention with “Really Really,” his resoundingly praised take on complacent young adults living in New York. With “Pride” he further cements his reputation. Frequently funny, but also upsetting and at a couple points heartrendingly poignant, “Pride” proves a fully satisfying theatrical experience.

30
Oct
2013