note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
It’s refreshing to attend a show that isn’t Christmas-related, but deals with interrelated surprises and secrets told separately, as three people share their stories in Jeffrey Hatcher’s play, “Three Viewings,” currently appearing through Dec. 18 in New Repertory Theatre’s Black Box Theater.
The play is centered in an unlikely setting, a funeral home, in which all three characters have endured losses, but deal with different issues that have ironic twists, which I won’t reveal here. “Three Viewings” opens with Emil, a shy but perfunctory funeral director, who is hopelessly smitten with his longtime “friend,” Tessie.
Her black hair, blue eyes, and lovely skin send Emil into throes of ecstasy just looking at her. He whispers “I love you” several times behind her back, hoping he’ll get caught, because he hasn’t the courage to tell her outright. Emboldened, he sets a deadline of New Year’s Eve to declare his true feelings to Tess, he confides.
Accomplished actor Joel Colodner is dignified, yet almost giddy, while battling the agony of hidden, unrequited love. A large, red rose beams from the top corner of a background triptych screen, symbolic of Emil’s love and hope.
Christine Power overacts at times as a young woman named Mac, whose dowager grandmother has died. Mac must leave Los Angeles to attend Grandmother Nettie’s funeral in Pittsburgh. Mac has no money, so she does what she’s best at - robbing jewelry off corpses, a skill she perfected the past eight years, and will practice at her 103-year-old grandmother’s wake.
“Grandma will be a cinch!” she relishes. A single white poinsettia beams behind her, symbolizing the many bouquets in Emil’s funeral home.
Mac is filled with resentment, failure, standing in the shadow of her surgeon brother, St. David the Perfect, while she’s labeled a “bipolar, bisexual drug addict” who unsuccessfully attempted suicide. As Mac’s story unravels, our contempt for her evaporates, drawing our sympathy instead.
The most compelling story is Virginia’s, a bittersweet tale of a widow, whose wheeler-dealer, hairpiece-wearing husband died, leaving her with some sticky situations, and her daughter, Debbie, in Wisconsin, whom Virginia says she “doesn’t understand a word Debbie says”.
Adrianne Krstansky delivers a command performance here. She’s funny, sad, confused, vulnerable, unaware, as she wades through mysterious phone calls and confrontations that crystallize into a fulfilling finale.
Cristina Todesco’s bizarre set, with its bright red, circular floor and large, central, floral design, a bare, beige sofa, and underutilized background screen, adds little atmospherically.
Nothing more is needed, though. This one-act, 90-minute, three-monologue play hinges on the actors’ story-telling abilities and Hatcher’s superlative skills to tell down-to-earth incidents and emotions that embrace us all.
BOX INFO: One-act, 90-minute play in three narratives, written by Jeffrey Hatcher, directed by Jim Petosa, appearing with New Repertory Theater through Dec. 18 in its Black Box Theater, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown: Fridays at 8 p.m.; Dec. 7, 8,15, at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m., with talkback; Dec. 10,17, at 3, 8 p.m. Admission, $35; seniors, $5 off; student rush, $10. Call 617-923-8487, or visit www.newrep.org