note: entire contents copyright 2013 by Richard Pacheco
The current production at 2nd Story Theatre of Paul Zindelís ďAnd Miss Reardon Drinks A LittleĒ is sheer theatrical gold, It is polished, intense and riveting, loaded with laughs and fraught with emotional moments. The writing is top notch, full of funny contrasted by moments of disheartening pain and power. The acting in it is simply superb.
Paul Zindel wrote this play in the late 1960s. The show was first produced in 1967 in Los Angeles, but was not published until 1971 when the Dramatists Play Service in New York picked it up. On February 2, 1971, And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little made its Broadway debut. It ran for a total of 108 performances and was directed by Melvin Bernhardt. The original Broadway Cast included Julie Harris as Anna Reardon, Estelle Parsons as Catherine Reardon, Rae Allen as Fleur Stein, Bill Macy as Bob Stein, Nancy Marchand as Ceil Adams, Estelle Parsons was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Catherine Reardon and Rae Allen won for her portrayal of Fleur Stien.
The cast here is a wonder and a delight. This tale of three dysfunctional school teachers is pure magic. The three sisters lost their mother about eight months earlier and that has taken itís toll on the women, mostly Anna, who seems to fall to pieces over it, slipping into odd behavior from embracing strange real cats, not even dissuade when on attacks her and she insists, wrongly, that she has rabies.
Erin Olsen is a wonder as the crazed sister on temporary leave from teaching for her illness and some alleged bad conduct with a young male student, is riveting. From her maniacal laughter and absurd antics to her moments of painful withdrawal, she is excellent.
Then there is the imbibing sister referred to in the title, Catherine, played by Lara Hakeem. She has by choice scarified her life to hold this shattered family together. It had taken its toll on her and she seethes with anger and a fierce sense of humor that is totally relentless and merciless. She is fed up with her now vegetarian sister Annaís compulsions to eat zucchini and drained by trying to find new ways to cook it.
Then there is sister Ceil, cool, aloof, accomplished who has risen to become superintendent of schools by protecting number one without reservation of restriction. She appears to b in control and com[pared to her sisters she is, but she is also self absorbed and takes care of number one, namely here. She will throw anyone under the bus to preserve her own career and station in life, including family. Tanya Anderson delivers an outstanding performance as the sister with a mission and ruthless determination. She is impeccable in her steely demeanor and aloof poise.
Also on hand is a wannabe guidance counselor, Fleur Stein. She is a real kiss up and no doubt stops by to kiss up to the superintendent sister and does so from the moment she arrives. She is played with humor and flair by Susie Bowen Powers.
Her husband Bob, played by Joseph Henderson who is less than thrilled by some of her habits and how she likes to acquire things from school like toilet paper and paper towels, much to his dismay and chagrin. It is he who delivers the bomb that they do not recover from just before he departs. He is suitably annoying and persistent as he rambles on full of himself and very conscious of his wifeís failings which he does not hesitate to list with gusto. Finally there is Marica A. Layden as Mrs. Pentrano, who lives in the building and has a home business for cosmetics etc. and she is relentless in her pursuit of sales and a bit of malapropist, often using the wrong word or mispronouncing it with gusto and conviction. Layden is delightfully annoying in the role a mixture of dense and dogged in her pursuit.
This play zooms on with relentless and fierce humor and nothing and no one is immune to the bite. Together this cast sizzles with energy and vehemence and liberal doses of laughs in between the biting comments.
Mark Peckham directs with a sure and certain touch. He keeps the pace fast and furious and the actors interactions sparking with snippets of venom and bile in the midst of the hilarity.
Trevor Eliotís set design is once again excellent., evoking a cramped apartment where two of the three sisters live.
"And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" runs through May 17 at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St., Warren. Tickets are $30, and $21 for those 21 and under. Call (401) 247-4200, or visit 2ndstorytheatre.com.†