Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Butterflies Are Free"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"Butterflies Are Free"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at the Newport Playhouse is "Butterflies Are Free" by Leonard Gershe. The show is about Don Baker, a witty, well-off, good looking young man who has escaped the claustrophobia of Scarsdale, his home town. When you're a young bachelor in your own apartment for the first time, even if it's a cramped cold-water flat, you know what exhilaration is. If a pretty blonde haired actress moves into the next apartment, you've got an even better beginning. Don has it better yet:Jill Tanner, the free spirited actress has proposed friendship and the opening of the connecting door. Well into the play, the audience and Jill discover that Don is blind when he throws orange peels into the wastebasket not realizing she has moved it. He is escaping from an overprotective mother and trying to learn if he has the talent to become a songwriter. When Mrs. Baker who writes children's books, and Jill meet, the two simply don't mix. Mother uses any means to break up the relationship and the actress packs off to live with a director. When Mrs. Baker realizes how she has demoralized her son, and wishes the other woman was back and in comedy wishes can come true. We see Don's courage at the end as he pulls himself out of his self-pity and becomes a stronger more self reliant young man. Director Sandy Cerel mixes the comic and poignant moments perfectly in this four person show, moving the audience to laughter and tears at the appropriate times. Fred Davison built the wooden paneled set complete with wooden bunk-bed with ladder and a doorway for the bathroom in back of it.

Sandy Cerel does double duty in this show. She not only does a splendid job directing and blocking the show but also plays the strong willed Mrs. Baker. She updated the show from the 1960's to present day with references to U2 and other rock references. Sandy shines whether she is directing or acting in a show and her expertise comes through beautifully. Mrs. Baker is an author of children's book called Little Donny Dark which she wrote when Don was 5 years old to help him overcome his blindness to teach him how to swim. She uses the argument on him again to make him more self reliant after he thinks Jill has left him. Sandy gives her son the courage to move on with his life whether it be with Jill Tanner or some other girl. Her most touching scene is when she says good-bye to her son with tears in her eyes. Mrs. Baker's favorite phrase is "I could absolutely cry!" when she disapproves of things. Jamie Dufault plays the demanding role of Don Baker excellently. He doesn't make eye contact with the other performers, portraying a blind person very believably. Jamie tugs at your heartstrings as he tries to be accepted as a real person in the world and not pitied for his handicap.His emotional breakdown at the end of the show is a tour-de-force performance as he sobs piteously on the floor. Andi Flax plays the free spirit, Jill perfectly.(Jill likes to quote author's but never realizes who she is quoting for example the "Butterflies" quote she recites is from Charles Dickens' "Bleak House". She is a statuesque blonde who commands your attention from her very first entrance as she wants to have a cup of coffee and she is radiant in this role.. Andi can change Jill's emotions at the drop of a hat. She moves from flighty commitment phobic to argumentative then compassionate friend with ease. The role of the director is played by Nishan Lawton who makes the most of his short time on stage as this smarmy character. When he yells at Don like he deaf instead of blind is a very hilarious moment.He also is the stage manager for this show, keeping things running smoothly when he isn't onstage. Enjoy the all you can eat, fantastic buffet before the show prepared by chef Sue Raposa and sample such delightful dishes like home-made meat loaf, beef marsala and baked fish and a fun filled after the show cabaret lead by Kyle Medeiros. So for a perfect mixture of dramady, be sure to catch "Butterflies Are Free". You will enjoy the contemporary feel to it. I know I did, having directed it twice, once in 1982 and then again in 2005. Producer Matt Siravo has been running the Playhouse for the past 26 years.

"Butterflies Are Free" (16 April - 24 May)
NEWPORT PLAYHOUSE
Newport Playhouse, 104 Connell Highway, NEWPORT RI
1 (401)848-PLAY

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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