Friday, September 7, 2012

Alliance Theatre Lab: Home Sweet Funeral Home (2 reviews)

The Alliance Theatre Lab opened Home Sweet Funeral Home at The Pelican Theater on September 6, 2012.
Eight ten-minute plays all sharing the same set, which is a funeral home.  On top of that, each playwright was given a line of dialogue ("Why did it have to be that book?") and prop (a toothbrush), both of which must be incorporated into the play. 
Directed by Mark Della Ventura and David Michael Sirois, and featuring: Anne Chamberlain, Mark Della Ventura, Rayner Garranchan, Alexandria Iona, David Sirois, Natasha Waisfeld and Breeza Zeller, along with Barry University students: Jovon Jacobs and Stephanie Meskauskas.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Silliness and a quite a bit of sloppiness always accompanies these projects; it’s part of the fun, much like the 24-Hour Theater Project, just with more time to polish. As always, some work is better than others, some a lot better than others. It’s more a goofball exercise of imagination than serious playwriting or acting.
Easily the best piece overall is Demos-Brown’s Protagonista. A sexy Latin/Italian lover (Rayner Garranchan) is in a spotlight narrating a steamy passage from a soft porn romance novel. Suddenly, this manifestation of the author’s imagination drops the accent and yells at the novelist in the back of the auditorium (Sirois)... As the two spar over who’s driving this bus, the tone is witty and inventive. The dialogue and construction have an assured, polished craftsmanship that several of the other entries lacked.
Equally diverting was Finstrom’s Venom & Vodka set at the viewing for a despised theater critic (what a stretch)... Finstrom has penned terrific zingers and Chamberlain tosses them off with stylish verve. Waisfeld, who had the title role in New Theatre’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, is not as compelling. Among other things, her voice trails off or drops in register at the end of sentences, robbing them of any punch.

SiroisCatapult Confection... The script itself is just okay. But as with other Sirois/Della Ventura ventures as playwrights, directors, actors and long-time friends, this one pays off in a hysterically funny bit as each one cavorts silently behind the woman’s back each time she turns to face the other. It’s a carefully choreographed ballet of physical comedy that reflect the pair’s tightly meshing skill sets.

Della Ventura’s Mr. Ross’ Loss, the one about the students seeking extra credit, was another adequate script, but it was helped immeasurably by the droll portrayals of incipient slackers by the actors... Waisfeld and Garranchan are an affectionate if  bickering couple. Breeza Zeller is a delightful cartoon of a Valley Girl more concerned with her makeup than the tragedy.
Oddly enough, the production succeeds less as an exhibition of playwriting chops than as a showcase for the stronger actors – Sirois, Della Ventura, Garranchan and especially the chameleonic Chamberlain.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Alliance Theatre Lab’s anthology of short plays set in the same funeral parlor, is a mostly enjoyable mixed bag of comedies, with the odd little touch of drama.
The toothbrush and the line are gimmickry that don’t particularly pay off (never has a toothbrush been put to such odd uses). But the writers do give the young cast of nine a chance to display their versatility and comedic chops under the direction of actor-playwrights David Michael Sirois and Mark Della Ventura...
The first piece, Marjorie O’Neill-Butler’s Scavenger Hunt, is centered on a couple doing just what the title suggests... O’Neill-Butler packs a surprising amount of sweetness and sentiment into such a short play
Christopher Demos-Brown’s lustily vulgar Protagonista... is smart and clever, but... heavy-handed in its sexual aggressiveness.
Alexandria Iona sets up an improbable scenario in It’s Just Not That Serious... There’s a twist at the end, but it isn’t enough to save a flawed premise.
Mariah Reed’s Grave Matters... is silly, really, but Della Ventura’s low-key acting style makes (his character) a loser worth liking.
andie arthur’s performance review is a dense, brainy piece in which the archangel raziel (jovon="" jacobs) gives death (stephanie meskaukas) a job evaluation.
Della Ventura has created some great characters in Mr. Ross’ Loss... The actors have a blast inhabiting this vibrant young quartet, but again, the premise isn’t believable.
Sirois closes out the evening with Catapult Confection, a play showcasing three characters from his successful full-length Alliance hit Brothers Beckett... This time weather gal Joyce Elliot (Iona) is mourning her dad’s passing, with the help of pal Brad Beckett (Sirois) and their slovenly friend Doug (Della Ventura). The boys act like they’re 14 and in a locker room, but in his playwright role, Sirois injects some welcome emotional depth into Joyce’s complicated relationship with departed dad.
Alliance Theatre Lab presents Home Sweet Funeral Home at the Pelican Theatre through September 23, 2012.

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