Audience Review: THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES at Players Club of Swarthmore

by Patricia Bradford

Although THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES was written over 40 years ago, the absurdity is ageless. Director Ruth Wells Fischer has assembled a talented cast that makes the most of this unusual tale. Each one of the plot elements could support a play on its own, yet they are layered one atop the other in crazy way that ultimately works. Crazy.

After a brief, unsuccessful open mic night, all the action takes place in the New York apartment of Artie Shaughnessy (Paul Kerrigan). Kerrigan gets to play a wide range of emotions and never makes a misstep. Multi-talented he also plays the piano and sings (music includes contributions from local musician and composer Christopher Tolomeo). Artie, encouraged by tacky, exuberant girlfriend Bunny (Allison Gerrard) believes that his big break is right around the corner. Gerrard’s Bunny is larger than life and at the same time very human in pursuing her petty self-serving goals. Bunny does not realize how funny she is, luckily, Gerrard does. The aptly named Bananas (Karen Johnston) is an obstacle to both Artie and Bunny. Poor Bananas has mental problems and has some idea how unwanted she has become. It is often uncomfortable watching earnest, disconnected Johnston portraying Bananas as one yearns to reach out and help her. Add to the mix is that Pope Paul VI is in town. And who was that person who broke into Artie’s apartment before he woke up?

Act II introduces Corrinna Stroller (Elizabeth Gallagher) B movie starlet and girlfriend to Artie’s old pal (Billy Einhorn). Gallagher’s Corrinna is lovely and gracious, even when silently dealing with a distressing situation. The three nuns who found themselves stranded on the roof (Moriah Gornstein, Rose Azrael, Ilana Brookshier) certainly found her dazzling, until they were further distracted by Artie’s cute AWOL son Ronnie (DJ Gleason). Ronnie has his own maniacal reason for wanting to be in New York that day and Gleason’s explanatory monologue is gleeful, crazed, and a lot of fun.

So, to recap, Artie wants to be a songwriter, Bunny wants to ride Artie’s coattails, Bananas could use a little compassion, and Ronnie is looking to make a statement. Corrinna has a personal crisis, Nun Gornstein is deliciously avaricious, Nun Azrael is eagerly seeking some sin, and Nun Brookshier is hungrily looking for meaning in her life. Billy Einhorn (Jay Steinberg) arrives with a crisis of his own and Steinberg presents a surprisingly likable Billy. As the plot threads start to resolve themselves, the final characters to arrive, uniformed individuals from two different professions (Ryan Henzes and Adam Young) help bring the play to a logical end. Kidding -, the logic here is of the absurdist variety and isn’t truly logical. It is, as the playbill says, THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES, a Dark Comedy by John Guare.

Shows run through April 1st, 7:30pm for evening performances and 2pm for matinees. Players Club of Swarthmore, 614 Fairview Ave, Swarthmore PA 19081 (610) 328-4271

Players Club of Swarthmore

Review submitted by:
Anne Lannak

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