by Lesley Grigg

John Pinto as Gramps; Deneal Rozman as the grandson, Pud, and Keith Kirkner as Mr. Brink, (Death) in Town and Country Players’ ON BORROWED TIME.

What lengths would you go to in order to stay with the ones you love? The power of love and family is certainly evident in this story centered around a young boy and his Gramps, who is living ON BORROWED TIME.

From the beginning of the play, we learn how precious and short life is, as we’re introduced to the stubborn but lovable Jullian Northrup (John Pinto) and his impressionable grandson “Pud” (Daneal Rozman). Two peas in a pod; they had the quintessential grandfather/son relationship that anyone would be lucky to have. Their bond was so strong that you couldn’t always tell it was tainted with family sorrow and conflict. Gramps shared his opinions and extensive vocabulary with his rough and tumble shadow of a grandson, and it was clear this inseparable pair kept each other, and the audience, well entertained.

However, the women in the family were not as entertained. Sweet Grandma Nellie (Jean Laustsen) only wanted the best for her family, even if what was best was not as fun, and Aunt Demetria (Amy Fiscus), well it seemed she just walked around with a large pole up her derrière.

Pinto is the kind of actor that brings out the best of whoever he’s in the scene with, so you can imagine how wonderful he is on his own. He compliments each character so well, no matter what personality he has to match. He’s endearing with Rozman, both cheeky and loving with Laustsen, and straightforward with Fiscus. His character transforms depending on the scene and partner, making his performance not just believable, but also true-to-life.

It also helps to have scene partners who are equally as believable in their roles. As one of the youngest members of the cast, Rozman shows he could hold his own among the more experienced actors. Laustsen plays Granny so well, I believed she really knitted mittens during the show. From the way Fiscus plays the ornery Aunt, I was starting to think of my own unique names to call her, none of them with positive connotations.

The story takes a turn toward paranormal when we meet Mr. Brink (Keith Kirkner), a dapper stranger with a resonant voice. While it’s clear what Brink’s purpose is in the story, it’s surprising to watch how his plans are thwarted throughout the play. Kirkner is able to accomplish so much with just his voice that his presence on stage only adds to his performance. Even though he has little action, and he rarely raises his voice, he’s able to add wit and ominousness through his tone.

The second act introduces even more interesting characters as we meet some of the professionals in this small town. Gramps’ lawyer, Mr. Pilbeam (David Keller) is called in to help settle some family business, and I’m not sure if his line, “what are we waiting for…someone to come out?” was in the script, or his way of ad-libbing during dead space, but it wasn’t very discreet.

Dr. Evans (Joseph Perignat) is Gramps’ concerned doctor who ironically keeps trying to kill things. The combination of strong performances from Perignat and Pinto made them a powerhouse team. They complimented each other tremendously well. Their smooth transitions and natural flow of emotions, from concern to heated conversation, really holds attention and allows the audience to get lost in their story.

The cast rounds out with decent performances by Nicole Telesco as the young and lovely Marcia Giles, Robert Moses as the skeptical yet determined Mr. Grimes, and Michael Powell as the Sheriff.

During most of the plays I’ve seen so far at Town and Country, blocking has been an issue at some point. With the stage being in the middle of the space, this is an understandable obstacle, but some of the actors play to the audience better than others. Of course, not everyone will have the same viewing issues I did, but a few are worth mentioning only because it meant I missed entire scenes. Sitting house right, I mostly saw Granny’s back. When she did turn, I got to see wonderful facial expressions, but I wish I could have seen them more often. For some reason, she spent a lot of time on the same side of the stage. At one point, she blocked Demetria completely since they sat directly opposite one another, depriving me a decent view of either of them. If it wasn’t for their clear dialogue, I would have missed pivotal moments of the play, including the scene with Brink and Granny. This time a giant pole and large wingback chair blocked both actors from view, leaving me to listen close and use my imagination.

Keith Kirkner, as Mr. Brink (Death) in marvelous apple tree created for ON BORROWED TIME at Town and Country Players.

Some notable highlights of the show include the cameo of a small white pooch, who played the family pet perfectly. Of course, a centerpiece of the performance was the grandiose apple tree, constructed by members of the crew, including Ben Thorp, who made it appealing enough to spark the curiosity of a young boy (Brendan Miller) and strong enough to hold the weight and fury of a grown man. During one of the scene changes, the audience was treated to Jose Young’s soulful rendition of Amazing Grace which certainly was amazing and a wonderful way to transition. Even though there was a great lighting effect at the end of Act 1, there seemed to be some trouble with bringing the lights up a few times in Act 2. During one transition there was slight movements from the dimly lit Workmen (Michael Powell and Tucker Connard) to keep us in the story, but maybe they should have brought Jose back to sing us in again.

Overall, the strong performances outweighed what could have just been opening night kinks. The unique storyline is also a reason to see this show. Though it is based upon a character who does all he can to cheat death, no matter what the cost, in the end you realize what’s more important is making the most of life.

by Paul Osborn
Directed by Ken Weigert
August 3-18, 2012
Town and Country Players
4158 York Rd.,
Buckingham, PA

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