Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Caldwell Theatre: Stuff (4 reviews)

The Caldwell Theatre Company's production of Stuff, a new play by Michael McKeever, opened on July 9, 2011.
Born into a gilded world of opulence and breeding, the Collyer Brothers have it all. What they don’t realize is that their coddled world of privilege has left them completely unable to cope with the realities of the Twentieth Century. With great humor, insight and pathos, South Florida favorite Michael McKeever charts the comically twisted decline of New York’s most notorious hermits, from the height of their fortune in 1929 to their garbage laden deaths two decades later. With only each other to consol, support, love and loath, the Brothers Collyer shut themselves away from the disappointments of the ever changing world outside, only to find their greatest horrors lie within the walls of their own home.
Clive Cholerton directed a cast that featured Michael McKeever, Nicholas Richberg, Angie Radosh, and Marckenson Charles.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
On an incredibly detailed set that will have you singing its praises long after the show is over, these actors simply nail every line of McKeever's witty yet poignant script.
There is little to carp at here at the Caldwell.  Perhaps it’s a little heavy on exposition as memory in the first act and a little stagy in the blocking, but all in all minor flaws.   This is a well-written, well-acted and well-directed piece of Stuff.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...South Florida playwright Michael McKeever takes his turn at telling the Collyers’ story in Stuff, a touching dark comedy debuting at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre Company, where artistic director Clive Cholerton has given the play an absorbing first production.
Angie Radosh gives an artfully powerful performance as Susie Gage Frost Collyer, a woman who so prefers the glory days of her opera-diva past that she doesn’t pay attention to her grown sons’ conversation, hopes or needs. Elegant in Alberto Arroyo’s lovely period costumes, Radosh makes Susie a more subtle Mommie Dearest, a woman able to crush dreams with a smile.
Even more dazzling is Nicholas Richberg’s performance as Langley. As the younger (and arguably crazier) brother, Richberg brings style, energy and brio to his portrait of a man trapped by his compulsions and his self-assigned role as brother’s keeper. Endlessly creative, the actor makes each moment meaningful, and the bedrock tenderness between his Langley and McKeever’s Homer takes Stuff to a deeper place.
A final, much-deserved bravo goes to set designer Tim Bennett, who finds a way to transform the Collyer mansion from a stylish, orderly home into a place that makes the “stars” of Hoarders look like amateurs. When the curtain rises at the start of Act Two, Bennett’s set gets a sustained ovation – and deserves every second of it.
Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
Who would have thought that a legendary story torn from real life headlines about two  eccentric brothers who cut themselves off from the world could be so much fun and have  such a message about caring  and devotion?
McKeever (as the exuberant  Homer) and Richberg  (as the more docile Langley) –  both a joy to watch –  have captured the twisted twosome to perfection.  They not only bring  hoarding to a new high but do it with hilarity and pathos. It is a much more human look at hoarding  than  has been  portrayed on some of the more idiotic reality cable TV shows.

...the amazingly talented Angie Radosh, as the Collyer  mother... from the moment she arrives on stage, walking down a stairway to the sitting room  of their home in 1929, challenges you to take one’s eyes off of her.
...playing a significant part in this highly original production is actor Marckenson Charles... He is a welcome addition...
The opulent Act One set by Tim Bennett is definitive early 20th Century upper crust NY, while the surprising changes made for the Second Act will amaze even the most clairvoyant theatre-goer.
...this is an achievement for Caldwell..… a feather in the cap for director Cholerton…..a bright light for the playwright McKeever (whose evident research is astonishing  in itself)…..a stunning acting challenge for the four actors:  McKeever, Richberg, Radosh and  Charles …..  and a worthwhile event for its audience.
John Thomason wrote for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
Angie Radosh is smartly cast as the matriarch; her character is a mothballed relic of a caste past, the kind of snooty debutante Blanche DuBois might have been before her decline.
The first act is unnecessarily lengthy, at a staid 70 minutes. McKeever's decision to dramatize the Collyers' lives as a contemporary comedy rarely works, appearing as inappropriate as it is ahistoric. The characters are arch sitcom caricatures, albeit of a more literate sitcom than many, and they sound like they're reciting lines. It's no coincidence that the best moments of act one occur when the characters are liberated from the shackles of snappy banter.
...the show's flaws are rectified in the second act, set nearly two decades later, after the brothers have succumbed to full-on, freak-show hoarderdom — the Grey Gardens gals gone more gonzo. Their lives are as much a shambles as their once-stately mansion, the juicy details of which have been well-documented and adhered to with factual accuracy by McKeever.
The transformed set is stunning, and the action in front of it is just as compelling. Marckenson Charles turns in another dynamic performance as a thief with a touching backstory, but McKeever is the revelation of this extended scene. He's usually limited to snarky, scene-stealing sidemen, but here he emerges as the play's dominant performer and its piteous core. Just as McKeever the playwright begins to shed his work's comic patina and finally explore these characters' disturbing depths, so too does McKeever the actor push his limits well beyond his comfortably witty boundaries, and the result is striking. It's a shame it took both McKeevers so long to discover it.
Having seen the play opening night, I have to say that John Thomason completely missed the boat in the first act. Or perhaps Thomason doesn't come from a family rich with family stories that get repeated at every gathering.

Stuff plays at the Caldwell Theatre Company through July 31, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Someone should do Richard Greenberg's The Dazzle down here. It is a much better play on the subject. More funny and more heartbreaking.