Steel River Playhouse continues its run of contemporary pieces with the 2008 play by Gina Gionfriddo, BECKY SHAW. This show that had an off-Broadway run in 2009 revolves around Max (Michael Shoeman), an acerbic money manager who is handling the affairs of Susan (Lauren Rozensky Flanagan), a recent widow who suffers from MS, and her daughter Suzanna (Liz Maurer.) Suzanna and Max are long-time friends, and in an attempt to help Max find someone, Suzanna’s husband Andrew (Eric Rupp) sets Max up on a blind date with Becky Shaw (Kate Nice). Saying these two are mismatched would be an understatement; Becky is shy, down on her luck, and desperately anxious to please, which, to the snarky Max, is the opposite of what he is looking for. As he says to Susanna, “Romantic relationships are the pairing of equals. That woman is not my equal! “ As the play moves forward, we see how Becky affects not only Max, but the relationship between Suzanna and Andrew.
Director Aaron Gould has assembled a fine cast. Flanagan plays Susan with the right amount of spunk, ignoring Max’s advice and Susanna’s complaints. Maurer handled the difficult role of Suzanna well, alternately bitchy and placating, dealing with the diverse personalities in her life. Shoeman accented the sarcastic side of Max’s personality, not really showing any compassion or willingness to compromise. Rupp showed the softer, more reasonable side of Andrew, and Nice was cuddly and appropriately needy as Becky.
I am unclear as to the direction of the production. The cast didn’t get any help from the outside elements (more on that shortly), but the production seemed to concentrate on the drama and de-emphasize the humor. There were moments that I heard that glossed over a funny moment, almost worrying that a laugh from the audience might break the mood. After a while, the audience was hesitant to laugh, and the production got darker as a result. Hopefully the cast will remind themselves that this is a comedy…a dark comedy to be sure, but there are a number of moments that are funny and should be celebrated.
The opening night performance of this production unfortunately had to deal with a very heavy (and very loud) thunderstorm that affected the audience’s ability to hear the actors at times, and I suspect had an effect on their performances as well. While the play flowed along seemingly ignoring the elements outside, the actors tried to speak over the clamor of the rain on the roof and the irritancy of the distraction showed in their performances at times. The humor of the piece was lost in many places, with some of the lines coming out a bit harsher than I suspect they were intended. Kudos to the cast for carrying on under very difficult conditions. BECKY SHAW has some very fine performances, and with an injection of smiles will be a very fine production.
**Editor’s Note: Steel River Playhouse has responded to feedback from opening night patrons regarding the difficulty in hearing dialogue due to the storm mentioned above, by offering those opening night patrons complimentary tickets, if they were among those whose theater experience suffered.
Written by Gina Gionfriddo
Directed by Aaron Gould
April 19-28, 2013
Steel River Playhouse
245 E. High Street
Pottstown, PA 19464