Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Lovers and Other Strangers"

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entire contents copyright 1998 by Tony Annicone

"Lovers and Other Strangers"

Written by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna

Directed and Produced by Matt Siravo
General Manager- Jonathan M. Perry
Stage Manager - Kate Radin
Set Design - Matt Siravo
Set Construction - David Raposa
Set Decoration - Vince Micucci
Light Design - Jonathan Perry
Program Design - John Brenna
n Costumes - Marge Conte
Properties - Kate Radin
Hairstylist - Daisy Gilmore

Cast (In order of appearance)
Jerry - John Brennan
Brenda - Michelle Donovan
Susan - Joyeux Noel
Mike - Kelly Williamson
Johnny - Kyle Medeiros
Wilma - Patty Mott
Frank - Matt Siravo
Bea - Sandra Nicastro
Richie - Jonathan Perry
Joan - Carol Cullen
Understudy - Jason Heywood
Understudy - Mary Perry

Newport Playhouse and Cabaret Restaurant's current production "Lovers and Other Strangers" (written by Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor who plays the Nanny's mother on TV) is a laugh riot from beginning to end. Run do not walk to the Playhouse to see it. The show is a series of 4 vignettes starring ten extremely talented performers. (One sign of good acting consists of a performer being able to react to the other actors with a glance or a look and receiving laughter from it without saying a word). All of these performers do this as well as provoke laughter with their humorous dialogue.

The first vignette shows a young man trying to seduce a girl he has just met. She continually resists his advances by referring to several books she's read. (Sex and the Single Girl, The Prophet and The Art of Loving.) She successfully controls the situation and makes out with him on her terms. John Brennan and Michelle Donavan play Jerry and Brenda extremely well. He is a very animated comic actor while she is very adept at playing dramatic roles too. The slapstick antics on the sofa and the bright orange color of Michelle's outfit perfectly match the woman wooing the man scenario. Very talented performers make this scene shine and provided the audience with a great deal of laughter.

The second scene opens at 4 a.m. in Susan's apartment where her fiancee comes to tell her, he is a nervous wreck and can't go through with the wedding. Joy Noel plays Susan who just gives her half crazed suitor Mike (Kelly Williamson) these dead pan looks while brushing her hair that sent the audience into hysterical laughter. Kelly did a great job as the jittery bridegroom-to-be. His energetic outbursts nailed the character right on the head. Every thing works out well when Susan continues as if nothing has happened and asks if the tuxedos are ready. Joy Noel's calmness as Susan has won the day for this couple.

The third vignette involves a married couple, Johnny (Kyle Medeiros) and Wilma (Patty Mott) who can't remember whose turn it is to start their lovemaking!. The scene gets physical with the husband wrestling the wife and making her give into him. He's the winner and she's the loser, or is she? Patty , in a hot pink pajama ensemble, turns the strong willed Wilma into a softer understanding person by trying to respect her husbands feelings at the end. Kyle runs the gamut of emotions from her henpecked hubby, to strong man in charge, to being disappointed with his job ...using fantastic facial expressions. Both actors act splendidly in this scene and provided the audience with much laughter... especially funny was when Patty bounced Kyle out of the bed. (Two very versatile and engaging performers made the audience believe they were really married to each others by their arguing and fighting together-- A real hoot!)

The last scene was the funniest of this show from the soup eating beginning to the very last line. An Italian husband Frank (Matt Siravo) and his Italian wife, Bea (Sandra Nicastro) who have fought together for their 33 years of marriage try to save their son Richie's (Jonathan Perry) marriage to redheaded daughter-in-law, Joan (Carol Cullen). They do this by confessing their failures through the years. (Frank's affair with another women and Bea not liking sex after being handled too roughly on her wedding night). Even though Frank and Bea argue constantly, they realize they can't get along without each other. Carol Cullen plays Joan with all the right reactions to being thrust into this crazy Italian family. She makes the most of her limited stage time. Great job!

Jonathan Perry (who I've known since 1983 when he was 16 years old in "Hello Dolly" when he played Barnaby) does a wonderful job as Richie. He listens to his parents advice at the kitchen table over and over again without jumping out a window. He has supreme patience with his argumentative parents. Jon's reactions of exasperation and impatience and keeping a straight face with all the craziness around him are priceless!. Great to see you back on stage. Keep the laughs coming.

Sandra Nicastro as Bea does an outstanding job as the meddling Italian mother. Her portrayal is so right on the money with her accent, expressions, advice and delivery, one would think this part had been written for her!. Her best line was when she continued to have sex with her husband after her first time because "my body was his sacred erotic rite". A very hysterical performer (loved the knee highs and her moustache!)

Matt Siravo returns to the stage in a tour deforce performance in this show. Matt also directed this well-paced and well cast show. Having been in "Fiddler On The Roof" and "a Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum" with Matt and having seen him in "Breaking Legs", I've seen him at his best, but as Frank he's just as good as them all. His relationships with all the characters in this scene are excellently executed and makes one hope to see Matt in many future shows. The dialogue at the end of the show between Sandra and Matt was especially hilarious. A fantastic actor, director, producer all rolled into one person. BRAVO!.

An excellent all you can eat buffet before the show and a wonderful cabaret after it make this an evening to remember. Kudos to everyone connected to this show.

"Lovers and Other Strangers" (till 14 March)
THE NEWPORT PLAYHOUSE AND CABARET RESTAURANT
102 Connell Highway, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 848-PLAY (7529)

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