Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Backwater"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Beverly Creasey

Boffo "Backwater"

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

It rained cats and dogs last weekend. I was surprised the Leland Center (Boston Center for the Arts) wasn’t deluged. We ventured out and the show that lifted us out of our miserable, wet funk was called, appropriately enough, BACKWATER. William Donnelly’s film script has been transformed by the Rough & Tumble acrobats into a rollicking stage production.

There’s something intrinsically funny about using film language on stage: Director Dan Milstein executes jump cuts, close-ups, p.o.v.’s and long shots (like “car” scenes) which you ordinarily can’t do on stage. Even if R&T tackled a somber script like “Lawrence of Arabia” and reworked it for the theater –with cardboard camels and cutouts of Bedouin armies—they’d have a fabulous comedy on their hands. If only they would revisit the “great films of the century.” (I think one of the funniest plays I ever saw was Christopher Durang’s “History of the American Film” which sends up famous movies ----which isn’t what R &T are doing. But I digress. It’s because I haven’t thoroughly dried out yet.)

I’m still giggling over the sensational car in BACKWATER…and the geese. Well, Milstein knows how to milk laughs from a stone…and it doesn’t hurt to have a top of the line cast of comedians. Irene Daly is the straight man, so to speak. She’s the center around which everything and everyone revolves. It’s not easy playing it straight when such glorious mayhem is breaking out all around you, at the hands of Zabeth Russell (who holds a pause so long, it may just be the Guinness Record) or George Saulnier (who dumps poor Lea, then turns right around, as Lea’s dad, to badmouth the himself) or Chris Cook (whose face is made of rubber, I’m sure) or Claire Shinkman (whose deadpan only rivals her “live” pans) or Paul Giragos in a wealth of personnae. What fun. Even their printed program is a hoot. I, for one, am glad Donnelly didn’t hold out for MIRAMAX.

"Backwater" (19 March - 10 April)
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide