LATHAM — What’s the story about, and how do I tell it?
Two questions playwrights ask themselves as they undertake a new script.
Katie Forgette has generally answered these questions to my satisfaction in the funny and often wise “Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” now brought to life by the talented forces at Curtain Call.
Something’s fresh about her approach from the git-go. Breaking the fourth wall, Linda O’Shea (CCT newcomer Talia Hotaling) tells us directly that this is her memory play, but the other characters clamor to tell their versions of events, which Linda occasionally allows.
No surprise: when family members jaw about the past, lots of conflicting testimony emerges, either because people just forget or don’t want to recall exactly how things were.
The interrupters here are Linda’s dad, Mike (Steven Leifer); mom, Jo (Pam O’Connor); younger sister, Becky (CCT newcomer Erin Morrison); and aunt, Terri (Robin Leary).
Linda’s goal is to tell us about a series of incidents in 1973 in this family’s life when she was about 19, an aspiring writer ready to go to Stanford if the stars align.
For a period of time, they don’t, all due to boyfriend troubles, financial challenges, generational conflicts, a tape recorder, a snoopy neighbor, and a self-righteous priest. (Leifer also plays both of these characters, and to a fare-thee-well!)
The meta-theatrical “how-to” sometimes overshadows the “what.” For instance, the references to the family’s Irishness remain only that. Neighbor Betty Heckenbach has a little too much stage time.
Then again, there are a number of marvelous scenes, like a humorous one between Linda and Becky about the facts of life; and a hair-raising one between the inaptly named Father Lovett and Terri, a cat-and-mouse encounter between a man of the cloth and his parishioner. Excellent work by these four.
The production shines in all ways, starting with Jack Golden’s set: a modest first floor kitchen/cum dining room-living room. Utilitarian, with a few decorative still-life pics and one of Pope Paul VI.
Beth Ruman’s costumes aptly establish a period that many of us will remember, and Linda gives a not-so-kind reminder of what we wore back then. Sound by Alex Dietz-Kest, whether music or voice-overs, and lighting by Paul Radassao (warmly through windows or as follow-spots for the narrating Linda) vividly create place and mood. Props and stage management are by the wondrous Rebecca Gardner, now in her fifth season at Curtain Call.
Though this is his CCT directorial debut, actor and playwright David Bunce will be, according to producer Carol Max in her curtain speech, back. With good reason. He’s enabled individuals to shine — Hotaling’s opening, Leary’s touching monologue and a truly three-dimensional performance from O’Connor as a woman with long-ago dreams, deep convictions, a clever mind, endless energy, and boundless love —and coached the actors to perfectly executed ensemble work.
Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I’d say you won’t be surprised by anything good or bad that happens to the O’Sheas; at times it’s only a matter of degree, and that’s where, perhaps many of us live.
Drop by their house.
‘Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: through May 7
HOW MUCH: $30
MORE INFO: 518.877.7529, or curtaincalltheatre.com