note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
Here’s an unlikely recipe for success: a play about a boorish, chauvinistic husband, who bullies his young wife into never leaving their apartment - ever - throughout their seven years of marital bliss. Gently toss in the young, naive wife, who has convinced herself how lucky she is to have her gasoline-pumping, chest-thumping husband, as she busies herself with ridiculous arts and crafts and watching videos of the day they met, leaving a perimeter of mounds of clutter in her little love nest, while cheerily rejoicing in her good fortune.
Now, sprinkle liberally with a spicy, hot, extra topping of a sizzling, sexy mistress, and you’ve the formula for Deborah Zoe Laufer’s caricaturish, two-act, two-hour comedy, “Out of Sterno”.
Versatile, award-winning Lynn native Paula Plum directs her real-life husband, Richard Snee, in multiple roles, along with talented Jennifer Ellis, Amanda Collins and Noah Tuleja, through July 18, at Gloucester Stage, and the results are strangely satisfying and entertaining.
Why strangely? Because Laufer’s play is a strange cartoon, an hyperbolic situation about a sweet, innocent young woman named Dotty, who married an egotistical jerk at 17, and is so lovestruck, she unquestioningly obeys his warning to never leave the apartment - except to go downstairs and do laundry. Several small tables contain overhead projectors. She acts out her fantasies, using two puppets. She talks to us directly, and interacts with theatergoers, passing around a photo of her handsome hubby, Hamel (impressive Noah Tuleja).
Dotty doesn’t pass around a girly photo that fell out of Hamel’s Mobil uniform. She projects a cloudy image of it on the weird, silhouetted background, explaining to us the guys at the garage must have pulled a prank on Hamel and put it in his pocket.
When Dotty gets an angry, threatening phone call from a woman, and a deliveryman (the obiquitous Snee) delivers a floral bouquet that isn’t for her, while Hamel breezes in and out, sporting his satiny magenta or turquoise shirts, one night after another, Dotty decides it’s time to venture out.
Thus begins Dotty’s Alice-in-Wonderland trek through the looking glass, and to self-realization, in becoming a “real woman”. Jon Savage’s bizarre set and Russ Swift’s lighting add the right atmosphere to the play.
Portraying Dotty, Amanda Collins is a heart-stealer. We embrace her because of her devotion, her unwavering love for her cad of a husband, and her innocence in dealing with the world outside of her fantasy-filled apartment.
During Dotty’s life-changing journey, she meets several advice-giving individuals: a feminist named Barbara; Sallie Mae, a pregnant Southern wife and faithful subscriber to “Southern Nursing Mommy” magazine, who informs Dotty that she, too, is pregnant; a down-at-the-heels door-to-door salesman; and others, whom Snee rapidly transforms into, despite full costume changes.
The play takes several weird, insane twists, but keeps theatergoers‘ interest riveted. In a sense, Dotty’s isolation isn’t that incredulous, especially after the media bombarded us with the story of a mother, her five sons and daughter, who were never allowed to leave their city apartment for years. Like Dotty, they resorted to fantasy, by acting out movie videos, to fill their days, until one son bravely decided to venture outside, defying his father.
As Dotty eventually walks out the theater’s backstage door, we know she’s not gone forever. We figure her uncertain fate is fodder for a sequel.
Then again, maybe not.
BOX INFO:Deborah Zoe Laufer’s wacky, two-act, two-hour comedy, appearing through July 18, at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main St., Gloucester. Contains adult language, strobe lights and gun shots. Showtimes: Wednesday-Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.; matinees, Saturday, Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets: July 11th matinee, limited pay-what-you-wish; patrons, $28; ages 25-under, limited number of seats available for $1. Check for related events. Call 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.org.