Theatre Mirror Reviews - "House of Blue Leaves"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"House of Blue Leaves"

by John Guare
Directed by ???

Stage Manager Matt Breton

Artie Shaughnessy.....Gordon Vidaver
Ronnie Shaughnessy.....Brian McNeany
Bunny Flingus...........Kate Tellers
Bananas Shaughnessy...Robin Rapoport
Corinna Stroller....Laura Schweitzer
Head Nun..............Kathy Condrick
Second Nun............Kristin Vieire
Little Nun..............Erika Ritton
M.P. .....................Bill Price
Man in White.............Dave London
Billy Einhorn.............Larry Tish
Voice of Pope.....Robert Bettencourt

The first show from Fourth Wall Productions is finally up and running: "House of Blue Leaves" by John Guare, on the wide, wide, shallow stage upstairs at The Church of All Nations.There are a dozen actors involved in this forever oddball play supposedly taking place on 4 October, 1965 --- the year The Pope came to America "to end the Vietnam War." Guare's hold on reality may be as approximate as that of Bananas Shaughnessy (Robin Rapoport), who goes nowhere anymore, pretends to be a dog when her husband Gordon Vidaver) makes her eat --- he's a keeper at the bronx Zoo --- and resists his plans to dump her in the loony-bin that gives the play its name. The play is crammed with incidents --- most of which seem laughably far-fetched when introduced. The strength of this production is that everyone stays solidly in-character through all the sudden twists and jolts of the plot; its weakness is that every neat little star-turn stays on the surface, so that the hard-to-believe undercurrent of fact holding them all together is never quite visible.

As a rule, the smaller the part the easier it must have been to polish to a shine. Take Laura Schweitzer playing a movie-star in glamorous retirement because she's stone deaf without her transistors in her ears. She sweeps into this "cold apartment in Sunnyside, Queens" on her way to an ear-operation (in Australia), drops her hearing-aids and tries to bluff her way through conversations by rasping out answers to what she thinks people are asking. Unbelievable? Sure, but her little scene works.

She is to marry Artie Shaughnessy's boyhood chum who insists his rule of thumb making his great pictures is "Would Artie like this?" Unbelievable? Sure, but Larry Tish milks every ounce of ridiculous substance from his walk-on, including a sudden reversal in which he falls head over heels for...

Ah, no. Theatrical surprises should stay surprises! In any case, the principals here are Rapoport, Vidaver, and the woman Artie wants to marry --- Bunny Flingus who lives one floor down, played by Kate Tellers. She's always pushing Artie to sing his dozens of slightly derivative songs at amateur-nights, and hopes the Pope will bless their union as his Pope-mobile speeds past them on his way to destiny. Artie's eager, cracked-pumpkin grin as he bobs out from behind a tinny upright piano is unvaryingly optimistic, even though he admits he is too old to be A Young Star anymore.

Fold all these odd elements together, add three freezing nuns who thought they'd see better from the roof, and AWOL son hiding from everyone, a fatal bomb-blast, a man in a white coat and am M.P. --- hell, there might even be a kitchen-sink in there if you look carefully. In any case this is a script as tidily packaged as a gift-wrapped octopus, and nearly everyone steps on stage with a different view of what holds it together.

But it's a beginning! Two years in the making, a cast of a dozen, sparing no expense, Fourth Wall Productions has opened its first show!


"House of Blue Leaves" (21 - 29 June)
The Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide