The Country House

CVLT Serves Up a Fine Visit to The Country House

Community Theatre

Review by: Kevin Kelly

Dysfunctional families make the world go round. Or, at the very least, provide fodder for numerous coffeeshop discussions, therapy sessions, and material for the arts. I am sure that almost every family can contribute at least one scene to a play while running in rep with the trips to the local bar and CVS for a refill. So it is no surprise that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies was inspired to step into the dysfunctional family and write "The Country House." As the play opens, we find ourselves gathered in the summer home of Anna Patterson (Margo Parker), soon after the death of her daughter, Kathy, who was a movie star and quite beautiful. Joining the house is Susie Keegan (Kaytie Leonard), who is the daughter of Kathy and her husband, Walter Keegan (Kevin Jones). Walter arrives with his own form of therapy in the form of his new girlfriend Nell McNally (Kerry Scanlon). Enter Anna's hot mess son Elliott (Roland Moore), who has a secret past love interest to unveil. Added to the dynamics is a little sex candy in the form of TV star Michael Astor (Sean McCormick). Astor is walking Viagra. and not sold over the counter.

This is a smartly written piece with a lot of inside theater zingers, especially in Act I. The cast handles the material very well. Act I is definitely the lighter act. The show is led by an impressive Parker. She takes the reins of the monarch firmly and delivers a strong performance, displaying a good range of comedic prowess,  and also has the skills to ignite a fiery ending. Roland Moore. He delivers moments of one-liners like it's his job, and certainly inhabits the hot mess elements of his character. Moore can also tap into real pain very truthfully.  McCormick walks into the scene perfectly personifying a matinee idol. Not overdoing any schmaltz, but unveiling a very human "star." He allows his character to let go of the showbiz allure, and find a connection with family, even if for one "oops" moment. Leonard is perfectly precocious and delivers her truth bullets with deadpan disgust, or serves up delicious bullets of pain. Her Susie embodies a young lady that has been forced to grow up too fast. Jones gives Walter a great human presence and allows for the younger girlfriend scenario not to reflect like a man trying to stay young, but someone who truly is happy without being creepy. Of course, who wouldn't be happy with Scanlon as his girlfriend? She gives Nell a stable resonance, a Chorus Line body, and a down to earth tone to make it all work, as opposed to coming across as a gold digger. Also, Kerry's sparring with Moore is engaging to watch.

There are a few observations. At times, the staging seems a bit frenetic moving about from chair to chair during conversations, and not letting them settle. The blouse that Parker wheres in act two blends into the chair fabric a bit too much for my eye. I thought the rain sound could have been a bit clearer in the house, but of course, I am no longer a spring chicken.

As part of Chagrin Valley Little Theatre's 88th season, The Country House is a good production, that seems to be inhabited by non CLVT regulars, and is a wonderful indication of reputation and expanding the wonderful experiences that CVLT audiences can provide. The set is great, with really good detail, especially the pictures on the wall. In the moments of upstaged dialogue, I thought the active listening was terrific. Moments of the trend of having the back to the audience, only work, if the cast is tuned in and focused, which it was in this case. Luckily, this convention was not overdone. 

Westerly delivers a solid show. Edmond Wolff provided the Set, Sound and Lighting Design with an effective measure. Stage Manager Jeanie Gaither called a great show. Shelley Nixon's costumes were on point.

Also, congrats to the theatre on letting the F-bomb fly. It wasn't taken in vain or punched, like "oh, look what I'm saying", and fit into how these characters would talk.

The audience had a good time. I love laughter.

CSA
Cleveland Stage Alliance
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials

Thru April 8

Showtimes:

8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays (no show 4/1)


Tickets:
$14-$18

(440) 247-8955
Order Tickets Online
Location:


Chagrin Valley Little Theatre
40 River Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022