Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Crossing Delancey"

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entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone

"Crossing Delancey"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Community Players closing show of their 82nd season is the delightful comedy, "Crossing Delancey" by Susan Sandler. The story is about Izzy, a young Jewish woman and her relationship with Bubbie, her grandmother. It is where the old world traditions of Bubbie collide with Izzy's contemporary ones. Izzy is infatuated with an author but Bubbie wants to have great grandchildren so she hires Hannah, a matchmaker to fix her granddaughter up with the pickle man. Who will win this struggle of the wills? You must it to find out. Carol Varden directs her six performers beautifully in this merry romp with excellent costumes, set and lighting, helping to create the atmosphere of the East side of NYC.

Carol blocks her actors with a strong hand and utilizes not only the unit stage set but the whole auditorium. She also keeps the action moving by bringing characters on in the dark on the other parts of the stage to meld one scene into another. The unit set consists of three different playing areas, Bubbie's kitchen on stage left, Izzy's bookstore on stage right and a park bench is center stage with a scrim upstage lit backstage with two buildings and a tree for each playing area. They are lit up when that area is being used. The authentic looking bookstore, old fashioned kitchen and park bench are designed and built by John Ricci and the fantastic lighting is by RIC senior, Rob Ferland Jr., with lighting and sound execution by Emily Varden and Stacey Geer. The background music is by Robert Miller and the numerous costumes by Erica Koch, Pam Jackson and the cast. (I loved all of Hannah's outlandish outfits as well as Sam's hideous outfit for his dinner date with Izzy.) Stage manager Michele Pinault keeps the actors on their toes backstage and Props mistress Maryann Ricci makes sure the stage is set before each of the scenes. All these backstage people help to make this into a successful production.

Mary Beth Kim plays Izzy who works in bookstore, visits her Bubbie on Sundays and lusts after Tyler Moss, her favorite author. The character of Izzy also narrates what is happening during the first act so you can understand the relationships more clearly. Mary Beth conveys her love for her grandmother, distaste for the pickleman and Hannah and her longing for the author. The symbolic gift of wearing a new hat but keeping the old ways helps to lead Izzy to what is really important in life. Her loving and hilarious grandmother is played by veteran actress, Jane Fierstein. She is dynamo on stage with her many stories of her love life of the past, her interpretations of dreams and her belief in pushing for a match for her beloved offspring. Jane lights up the stage as Bubbie, interacting with the other characters wonderfully. Her reactions are priceless and some of her funniest moments are when she pulls up her numerous layers of clothes to give Izzy $500 as proof for Izzy's dream, her disgust with Hannah's gluttony, her constant singing and dancing with her kugel and blintzes and her hysterical reaction to Sam at the end of the show, proving the old ways still work in these current times.

Another scene stealer in this show is Janette Gregorian as Hannah. Wearing a blond wig and a fat suit, she reminds you of the mother on "The Nanny". Not only are her outfit outrageous but her lines are very humorous, too. Janette is a wonderful comedienne and this role is another feather in her cap. Her scenes with Jane are fantastic and her bullying of Sam to wear a mismatched loud outfit are wonderful, too. The role of Sam is played by Chuck Reifler who gives this role the warmth it needs. His winning personality makes you root for the little pickleman to win and woo the woman he desires. Sam is a wise man who lives in the present but still believes the old values of his father are still important. Chuck conveys this message to the audience proving his strength as an actor. (I first met Chuck when I directed him 19 years ago in Warwick.) Rounding out the cast are John Shanahan who plays the pompous ass of an author, Tyler Moss very well and Carol's grandson, Leon Saunders who plays various roles in this show including a delivery man and one of Hannah's intended matches who runs away from her. (I remember Leon as a baby in 1987 but I don't think he remembered me from back then.) So for a great way to spend a summer evening in the theater, be sure to catch "Crossing Delancey" in Pawtucket.

Crossing Delancey ( 13 -22 June)
Jenks Jr High Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide