note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
THE DEVIL’S TEACUP has to be one of the best titles to come down the pike in a long while. (Can’t you just picture the scalding brew at the devil’s high tea?) What’s more, Nathan Warren Lane’s dramedy is one of the smartest new plays I’ve seen in ages. Imagine being totally engrossed ---and thoroughly amused---by a play set in an Arkansas bar! We’ve seen plenty of stories about brothers and inheritances but none as hip and savvy--- and original--- as this one.
Lane has an astute ear for quirky dialogue and downright hilarious banter in TEACUP (thru Oct. 28 at B.U. Playwrights Theatre). You’ll be genuinely touched by the older brother’s dilemma—to sell or not to sell--- and you’ll walk away with some catchy lines in your pocket. Lane’s has crafted a canny take on the “messy reunion” plot. The story even loops back on itself for a couple of surprises you won’t see coming.
Director Bridget Kathleen O’Leary gets a rhythm and momentum humming so smoothly that you don’t even want to stop at intermission. What a colorful bunch of characters --- and Lane gives several of them high stakes, not just the brothers. O’Leary’s cast is perfection. Timothy Spears gives a taut performance as the prodigal son who prefers New York to backwater Arkansas. Now that his father has died and left him the bar, who’ll look out for his sweet, gullible brother (the sensational Jake McDowell ) if he goes back to the Big Apple?
Old friends hook up at the bar after the father’s funeral and it seems that all of them have a secret or two. Jake Green gives a marvelously subtle performance as the best friend who never left and Liz Rimar manages to make the seductive, calculating ex-girlfriend totally sympathetic. Steven Barkhimer gives a wistful twist to the flashbacks of father at work in the bar or lost in reverie.
Mark Cohen gives the villain a wee tinge of vulnerability and Andrea Southwick will break your heart as his longsuffering wife. Ada Smith’s bar set, complete with Wurlitzer for playing those favorite numbers (and they are literally numbers: just one of Lane’s clever touches) lifts the eye upward with its gorgeous free floating beams, evocatively lit by Sara Houston. Nicole Yvonne Moody gets character right inside her costumes: sexy, tight, buttoned (and unbuttoned) jersey and jeans for the old flame and business suit for the uptight best friend.
Steven McIntosh’s choice of music is sublime: From The Stones to Patsy Cline to Dylan’s gorgeous “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again,” those old “Junk Box” tunes say it all.