Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad, CSU Summer Stages

(Eric Perusek as Jonathan and Everett Quinton as Madame Rosepettle)

First of all, no, the title isn’t a metaphor. It’s actually one of the strange things that happen, quite literally, in Arthur Kopit’s psycho-absurdist farce. First performed about 50 years ago, this play is a parody of Freudian psychology and all its extenuating effects on sex, family and relationships. And this production at CSU Summer Stages, although overcooked in parts, triggers much of this work’s dark comedy that still retains its punch.

The domineering and despicable Madame Rosepettle is traveling through the Caribbean with her neurotic, stuttering and barely functional grown son Jonathan in tow. She constantly refers to him using one of her dead husband’s several names while dad himself is never far away—stuffed and hanging in the closet when he isn’t tucked into his traveling coffin.

By keeping sonny under lock and key, and then allowing him some restricted face time with the mysterious and sensuous Rosalie, mommy attempts to protect Jonathan from the evil world—inside her head. Seeking companionship of her own, she wines and dines Commodore Roseabove, an older gentleman who is first smitten and then repulsed as Madame reveals herself.

As Rosepettle, Everett Quinton handles his cross-gender task with teeth-clenching intensity. This approach feels a bit over-torqued in the first act, as mom and boy set up housekeeping with her vicious menagerie: a piranha and two Venus flytraps, each played by actors. Similarly, Eric Perusek as Jonathan is working his Aspergers-like mannerisms so hard early on that we can’t glimpse the character underneath.

However, both performers ease up a little in the second act and the gears of the farce start to engage. Rosepettle’s scene with Roseabove, works exceptionally well, thanks to Quinton’s hypnotically malevolent monolog about Madame’s first hubby, and George Roth, who gives the Commodore a sweet innocence that wilts under Rosepettle’s onslaught.

Perusek feels much more genuinely vulnerable in the second act as he reaches a climax (not the kind you might expect) with Rosalie. As Rosalie, Jillian Bumpas plays it all a bit too straight, not allowing us to see any of this woman’s shadows until her last scene.

Director Scott Spence keeps the pace brisk (helpful, since the play is overwritten in parts) and uses a clever playlist of florid tunes (Bolero, all during the intermission) to highlight the weird unreality of these goings-on. If you’re in the mood for some good old 1960’s style absurdist fun, this might just be your ticket.

Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling so Sad

July 30 and August 6, CSU Summer Stages,

CSU Factory Theatre, Chester Ave. and E. 23 St.,


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