Director Doreen Weiss describes Leonard Gershe’s BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE, Wilmington Drama League’s current production, as a fairytale love story, a play that clearly had a great impact on her young life. It’s not exactly a fairytale in my eyes — it’s better than that. Unlike fairytales, you see young love develop, albeit over an extremely short amount of time.
Set in the ‘60s (the story is timeless enough that it could easily take place in the present day, but it stays true to its roots and plays out as a period piece), the story is set over the course of a single day, from mid-morning to around midnight. And it’s a rollercoaster of a day.
The central stars of BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE, Andrew Mauro and Francesca Vavala as Don and Jill, play their parts flawlessly. Mauro is a new face in Delaware theater, with a background primarily as a pit orchestra guitarist for student musicals. His guitar skills are on display as Don, an aspiring musician, but it’s his acting audiences will well remember. A socially sheltered blind man trying to make it on his own in New York City is not an easy role.
As Jill, Vavala is a ray of sunshine, a spark of excitement who comes into Don’s life when she moves into an adjoining efficiency apartment. She’s sweet and funny, the type of girl who says what she thinks and does what she wants. She’s not exactly stable, or the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she always manages to be likable, even when she makes terrible choices — which is a feat, and crucial to the character’s impact on Don and the audience.
Jill and Don’s new little world (their friendship escalates quickly), is interrupted by Don’s overprotective mother, Mrs. Baker, played impressively by Catherine Ireland. Mrs. Baker is appalled to find her son with a half-naked young woman, in an apartment she deems unacceptable. She commits to pushing Jill away and taking Don home to Scarsdale. She’s not a one-dimensional antagonist, however, and her character evolution is truly moving.
The final character in the play is Ralph, played by Nick Vavala, a theater director and ex-boyfriend of Jill’s whose appearance appears to signal the collapse of everything Jill and Don had in their short time together. You may not like Ralph — you’re really not meant to — but he’s played just right.
BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE is highly recommended, a wonderful, nostalgic way to spend an evening.
BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE
by Leonard Gershe
Directed by Doreen Weiss
March 15 – 24, 2013
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Boulevard
Wilmington, DE 19802