Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Butterflies Are Free"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"Butterflies Are Free"

by Leonard Gershe
Directed by Dave Sheppard

Producer J. Mark Baumhardt
Assistant Director Michelle Gillis
Set Design by David Sheppard
Lighting Design by Brian Masters
Costume Design by Gregg Thomas
Stage Manager Kathy Campbell

Don Baker.....................Gordon Ellis
Jill Tanner....................Holly Vanasse
Mrs. Baker.......................Shana Dirik
Ralph Austin....................Daniel Loya

Leonard Gershe's "Butterflies Are Free" is a slice of adolescent awakening with a bit of its late-'50s flavor and detail showing, but the Acme Theater Production proved it still has bite. A young man (Gordon Ellis) trying to live in his own new New York apartment to free himself from an over-protective mother (Shana Dirik) discovers an "actress" with Californian morals (Holly Vanasse) living on the other side of his paper-thin walls, and by nightfall she's his (second) One True Love. The fact that she may have spent the afternoon bedding her first New York director (Daniel Loya) only proves she doesn't want to be needed too much, and the budding song-writer does indeed have one special need --- but people new to the play should see it without reading further, and see how soon they catch what his problem is. The performance is good enough to have an unprepared audience guessing.

The first give-away in the play comes when the girl says its odd to meet a man who so carefully flicks his ashes onto his desk-top and he says "You moved my ash-tray, didn't you?" Till then Gordon Ellis could have been playing an odd neurotic avoiding eye-contact and memorizing the position of every stick of furniture. After that, the play is a pretty good explication of how the handicapped fend for themselves --- and why it's so hard for their mothers to let go. The play is a carefully crafted machine that first shows how human and efficient he can be, and then at an instant how fragile, helpless and alone he can be too. Ellis and Vanasse have the first act pretty much to themselves ("I wouldn't let just any man feel my breasts the first time I met him"), and Dirik and Ellis get down to the real fireworks in Act II. Daniel Loya has a thankless task of making her new director a clueless, vapid, proto-hippie lout. The other three characters though are well-written, and all four are well-played. Anyone who can get to Maynard will see a good show.


"Butterflies Are Free" (5 - 27 April)
ArtSpace Maynard, 61 Summer Street, MAYNARD, MA
1(978) 823-0003

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide