Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mammals"

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note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth


"Mammals" --- a familial farce

Reviewed by Sheila Barth

You can depend on Apollinaire Theater Co. to produce edgy theater, and in this East Coast premiere of Amelia Bullmore’s play, “Mammals,” billed as a bitter, comic look at love and commitment, it’s as freaky as it gets.

Bullmore, a British actor and award-winning playwright, has gained audience adoration with “Mammals” across the pond, from the time it appeared initially in April 2005 at the Bush Theatre in London. She has been gaining followers over here since then.

What makes this two-hour, two-act farce special in Chelsea, though, is its motley cast. Instead of children portraying two little girls, talented adult actors --- Alison Meirowitz as sexually curious, pre-pubescent Jess, and Lorna Nogueira as petulant pre-schooler Betty, who is obsessed with death and dying --- are hilarious child prototypes. The two women have successfully captured all the childlike, unsophisticatedly honest nuances, from thumb-sucking to jumping in their parents’ arms, while displaying petulance and sibling rivalry. Meirowitz also shocks with Jess’ blatant masturbative habit of rubbing herself against the edge of the kitchen table, while the adults look on, unperturbed.

Jarrod Bray’s cluttered set, Paul Benford-Bruce’s costumes, and Jacques‘ lighting add realism here.

In a sense, the story is much ado without nothing, given that a couple’s 12-year marriage is tested when husband Kev comes home to his wife Jane and announces he’s in love with his single co-worker, Fay; but nothing has come of it yet. He tells Jane he loves her and pledges nothing will destroy their marriage.

Poor Jane is paralyzed with housewife ennui. She dreams of hurting others and herself. She needs a break - a life - then is hit with Kev’s admission that he lusts after Fay in his heart.

The dysfunctional family atmosphere is further interrupted when Kev’s philandering, single best friend, Phil, (portrayed by Ted Batch) visits with his egotistical girlfriend, Lorna, and Jane admits to Kev that she secretly panted after Phil’s affection during Kev’s many absences as a traveling business inspector.

A sudden crash-bam interrupts the understated insanity here, creating a reality check. In the end, all loose ends are tied up.

Although Apollinaire Artistic Director/Director Danielle Fauteux-Jacques’ keen sense of dramatic and ironic timing is superb, the actors fail on several occasions to maintain their faux British accents, especially during climatic dialogue, making it difficult to understand or hear them. Why not drop them altogether?

Brazilian actress Maria Schaedler-Luera as Phil’s cosmopolitan girlfriend, Lorna, drops and resumes her accent as fast as she changes clothing.

There’s also difficulty in establishing the girls’ ages, given that Becca A. Lewis as Jane tells husband Kev (James Bocock) that she fantasized about having an affair with Phil six years ago, when she was pregnant with Jess. Huh?

Overlooking these few minor flaws, “Mammals” is worthwhile seeing.

Also, after every show, there’s a reception, where the audience can mingle with the cast and discuss the play over refreshments.

Two-act, two-hour play written by Amelia Bullmore; appearing at Apollinaire Theatre Company’s Chelsea Theatre Works,189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea, now through May 16, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees May 9 and 16 only at 3 p.m. Also, post-show reception with the actors. Advance tickets are $25; at the door, $30; advance senior tickets, $20; student rush an hour before the show, when available, $15. Call 617-887-2336 or visit www.apollinairetheatre.com.

"Mammals" (16 April - 16 May)
APOLLINAIRE THEATRE COMPANY
@ Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet Street, CHELSEA MA
1(617)887-2336

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