Three Viewings; Ultimate Christmas (abridged)

Death takes a holiday
By CAROLYN CLAY  |  December 6, 2011

main_3viewings_480
THREE FOR ALL Joel Colodner, Adrianne Krstansky, and Christine Power deliver the gleeful funereal goods in Jeffrey Hatcher’s Three Viewings.

Instead of sugarplums, New Repertory Theatre is serving up funeral meats. You have to admire a troupe that bypasses Scrooge and his hallucinogenic morsel of mustard to take us home for the holidays to . . . a Pittsburgh mortuary! But Jeffrey Hatcher's 1995 triptych Three Viewings (at the Arsenal Center for the Arts' Black Box through December 18) does indeed take place in and around such an establishment. Odd Yuletide setting though that is, the theater piece does end just before Christmas — when an offstage character dies of a heart attack! So why is it that Three Viewings, when not ladling melodrama, can be as delicious as the passel of fruitcakes that makes up its dramatis personae?

Hatcher's play is one more example that theater, at its core, is storytelling. Here we get three tales interrelated only by the funeral hook and a few minor characters, each crisply unfolded by a single actor under the direction of Jim Petosa. And despite a few clunks into potholes of bathos, the evening revs up as it goes along, its last tale of love and death and lucre easily its best. But in all three, Hatcher demonstrates a deadpan wit and a strong arm for the curveball.

First up is mousy mortician Emil, wearing his heart on his sleeve like a mourner's armband. The object of his unrequited love: divorced realtor Tessie, apparently as vivid as he is drab, whom he secretly courts by tipping her to imminent demises that might lead to real-estate sales. Emil's a human collision of the ghoulish and the pathetic, and his adoration's more OCD than PDA. But Joel Colodner imbues the man with a shy and desperate passion.

Made of brassier stuff is Mac, whose first line — "I've been stealing jewelry off corpses for years; Grandma will be a cinch" — sure gets your attention. Indeed, the LA transplant, her diamonds gleaming like her acerbic edge, does rob the dead for a living. But this time it's personal. Grandma was a wealthy harridan who lived to 103 — as Mac puts it, "This funeral's been in rehearsal so long it's had replacement casts." Would that Mac's backstory were as tough and as tart as she is. But Christine Power proves a long, tall drink of vitriol into which Hatcher drops a blob of sentimentality only at the end.

Adrianne Krstansky's Virginia fares better, her tale of woe — emotional and financial — topped by a denouement as ingenious as it is sweet. Virginia, the widow of recently deceased "wheeler-dealer" businessman Ed, sits on the couch draped in a shmata as she catalogues a nest egg shattered by the sizeable debts Ed — clearly a wheeler-dealer with two flat tires — left behind. Krstansky adeptly filters everyone from Virginia's more erudite daughter to a growling Mafioso through the narrator's own bemused, appalled, somehow preternatural calm.


Xmas laughs

More conventional holiday fixings are tossed into the Cuisinart at Merrimack Repertory Theatre by those capering clowns of compaction, the Reduced Shakespeare Company. The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged) (through December 18), in its East Coast premiere, takes the form of an interdenominational variety show — but none of the acts shows up. This leaves longtime RSC writer-directors Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, abetted by fresh-faced Matt Rippy, to create their own Yule's errand.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: Theater , Theater, Arts, New Repertory Theatre,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY CAROLYN CLAY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ARTSEMERSON'S METAMORPHOSIS  |  February 28, 2013
    Gisli Örn Garðarsson’s Gregor Samsa is the best-looking bug you will ever see — more likely to give you goosebumps than make your skin crawl.
  •   CLEARING THE AIR WITH STRONG LUNGS AT NEW REP  |  February 27, 2013
    Lungs may not take your breath away, but it's an intelligent juggernaut of a comedy about sex, trust, and just how many people ought to be allowed to blow carbon into Earth's moribund atmosphere.
  •   MORMONS, MURDERERS, AND MARINERS: 10 THEATER SENSATIONS COMING TO BOSTON STAGES THIS SPRING  |  February 28, 2013
    Mitt Romney did his Mormon mission in France. But there are no baguettes or croissants to dip into the lukewarm proselytizing of bumbling elders Price and Cunningham, two young men sent by the Church of Latter-day Saints to convert the unfaithful of a Ugandan backwater in The Book of Mormon .
  •   THE HUMAN STAIN: LIFE AND DEATH IN MIDDLETOWN  |  February 22, 2013
    The New York Times dubbed Will Eno a “Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
  •   ZEITGEIST STAGE COMPANY'S LIFE OF RILEY  |  February 22, 2013
    Sir Alan Ayckbourn has written more than 70 plays, most of which turn on an intricate trick of chronology or geography.

 See all articles by: CAROLYN CLAY