Sep 25, 2022
“Tiny Houses” offers tiny pleasures at Curtain Call Theatre
Curtain Call Theater in Latham is celebrating its 30th season with the regional premiere of “Tiny Houses.”
The play is indicative of why the company has survived for 30 years, in several different locations. They’ve survived so long by offering the area fresh and often challenging material. Everything they do, be it serious or frivolous, is always presented in a high quality manner.
“Tiny Houses,” which plays through October 9, fits that description. It’s a slight, but very pleasant play, that offers the added bonus of watching five actors build a small 200 sq. ft. house on stage. Initially the work tends to the comic and thoughtful, but underneath the quirkiness of the characters is a desire for each to find a life style that suits their needs.
The house building is a fascinating challenge done with efficiency, but once the newness is gone, you see it as a device to offer exposition on the characters. The ineptitude and the idiosyncrasies of each character do, however, sustain the humor of the segment.
When a genuine contractor enters the play it takes on a different tone. Jeremiah not only introduces a sense of knowledge on how to build a house, he brings a sense of maturity to the situation that has been afternoon lacking. His common sense approach to life provokes the others to reveal who they really are beyond their fantasies of escaping the realities of life. All the characters become human beings and the confusion about where they belong in life becomes touching.
Those other characters consist of Ollie, a man who sells haunted dolls for a living. Jevine is a woman who has a successful online following because of her audio tapes that are so boring people use them to fall asleep.
They team up to help Cath, a determined woman who left NYC and a career in high finance. Her boyfriend is Bohdi, a feckless free-spirit life-coach, who flits from idea to idea. It is he who has convinced Cath to finance building their dream house in rural Oregon.
Credit for the attractive design, that fits perfectly on the Curtain Call stage, should go to scenic designer Frank Oliva. Too, kudos to Peter Max for his technical direction for the onstage construction.
Carol Max’s direction is able to unite the two moods smoothly and she is able to make clear that the construction process serves as a metaphor for living life. My favorite take-away is that you can’t learn to do everything through online tips. But I’m guessing the question playwright Chelsea Marcantel is asking is, “Is bigger always better?”
The performances are excellent as the actors do not overdo the initial premise of undisciplined people uniting to do something for which they are unqualified. They are even better as people who have to come to grips with how they want to keep their dreams and live happy lives.
The most stable person is Cath. Thanks for an endearing performance by Elizabeth Pietrangelo, the actor is able to make her both responsible and a dreamer. She is a woman strong enough to make her opinions known, yet frail enough to fall for Bohdi, who is not nearly her equal. In turn David Quinones Jr. does a terrific job making Bohdi, who is really a loser, seem like a nice guy. At least until he isn’t.
Sarah Wasserbach does a remarkable job by not letting the most absurd character, Jevine, go out of control. The woman who has loved Bohdi since she was eight years old has little grip on reality but Wasserbach makes her eccentric-funny rather than wacky.
Also good is Aleks Perone as Ollie. He shows a true sense for comedy as the man who believes that the haunted dolls he markets have real personalities and powers. A bonus is his great accent, which is a running joke throughout the play.
Though he has the shortest stage time, JJ Buechner almost steals the show. His creation of the sincerely likeable Jeremiah turns the mood around as he grounds the play. Buechner offers a sincere, low-key performance that actually gives Cath some balance while he acts as a refreshing contrast to the others’ stunted maturity.
The play runs 90-minutes without an intermission. Half of that is solid theater and the other a painless diversion.
“Tiny Houses” runs at Curtain Call Theater 1 Jeanne Jugan Ln, Latham through October 9. For schedule and ticket information call 518-877-7529 or go to curtaincalltheatre.com
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.
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