Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Marvin's Room"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2001 by Tony Annicone

"Marvin's Room"

Tony Annicone

The Players presentation of "Marvin's Room", a comic show about a serious illness is theater at its best. The diagnosis of cancer is one of the tragic moments in Bessie's life. Add the care of a dying father and an aunt with a bad back who also has a failing memory as well as her estranged sister and her two sons to be bone marrow donors into the mix. It sounds like a heavy duty drama but is written and performed with humor amid the pathos making it a must see show.

Director Jeanne Atkinson takes these 14 vignettes and fills them with splendid acting ensemble by 9 talented people. She has the stage cut into different playing areas with movable set pieces and lighting. Jeanne gets the best out of the cast and it shows in the finished product. She and her capable stage manager, Marcia Layden keep things running smoothly during the performance. "Marvin's Room" is a difficult show to do but Jeanne handles it with ease. Brava on a job well done.

Joan Dillenback handles the demanding role of Bessie perfectly. From the humorous opening in the doctor's office and with her aunt to the poignant moments in the hospital and with her sister and nephews. Joan wears a skullcap in one scene showing the effects of her illness but it is so realistic making it a standout moment. She appears in almost every scene and makes every moment count. The carousel music shows the happy time when Bessie was in love with her carny barker. She wants to bring the same thing to her dying father by using a carnival type light to brighten his life and finally realizing her love for her father and aunt. Great job in a difficult role.

Veteran actress Carole Battaglia as Aunt Ruth almost steals every scene she is in. She wears a gray wig and makes the doddering aunt with a bad back a hoot. The robotic device implanted into her back opens the garage door and she loves soap operas, too. The Disney World scene is funny when she is pushed around in a wheelchair and thinks Pluto is a gopher. A wonderful character actress who is always a joy to watch on stage.

Another outstanding performance is given by the beautiful Robin Buteau as Bessie's sister, Lee. She makes this hard shelled woman soften when she deals with her sister's illness later in the show. Her line delivery sparkles. One of Robin's best moments is when she finally admits to her older son, Hank she realizes that his father beat him but she took it out on the boy by yelling at him. Her emotional breakdown and renewed connection to her son is excellent. Robin handles the humor as well as the pathos. The stealing of the candy and the yelling at her sons and her sister are very funny. Robin interacts wonderfully with all the other characters and is a dynamite presence on stage.

The two young actors who play Hank and Charlie do superb work in this show. 14 year old, Kevin McManus makes the tough juvenille offender (he has burnt down his mother's house) into a likable kid by end of the show. His scenes with Bessie, his mother and brother show his true love for them. Hank runs away when he thinks he has failed to give Bessie the bone marrow she needs but realizes he must come back because he needs the love of his family. Kevin does well in this difficult role. He makes the transition from tough to nice because he never knew if he was really loved by anyone believable. Young Andy Gould plays Charlie, the book reading, school hating younger brother. His interactions with the older cast members and Kevin and Robin are right on the money. Especially poignant is the scenewhere he gives the note to Bessie that Hank has run away. Andy's facial expression and touching delivery show his talent at an early age. Wonderful job, Kevin and Andy.

Other cast members might not have as much stage time but do great work in their roles. Walter Cotter plays the comic role of Dr. Wally who calls Bessie by the wrong name, yells at his brother who is his new assistant over the phone and kills roaches with a magazine. He makes this absent minded medic laugh out loud funny and his scenes with the boys will tickle your funny bone, too. Carole Collins plays Dr. Charlotte, Hank's psychiatrist. She is driven crazy by Lee who smokes and eats candy in front of her. Carole's reactions and expressions in this scene are excellent especially when she pulls out a cigarette in exasperation at scenes end. Roberta Remington plays the Director of the retirement home when Lee tries to convince Bessie to put their father there. Her stern expressions and explanation of the rules is another comic moment. Roberta plays the role to the hilt. Last but not least is Randy Villalba who plays Dr. Wally's harrassed brother Bob and Pluto at Disney World. Randy makes the most of his time on stage in his first performance with Players. Have a great run. Anyone wishing to join this 92 year old theatre club should give them a call at (401)273-0590 so you can become a member.

"Marvin's Room" (till 25 March)
THE PLAYERS
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 273-0590

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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