Kim Butterweck, Roger Fristore & Susan McNeese Lynch in Three Viewings.
Photo-Eve Theatre Company
By Jeffrey Hatcher
Directed by Nancy Hoover
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Less a fully formed play than a trio of interrelated monologues, Three Viewings is a dark comedy set in a funeral parlor.
First we meet Emil, the Funeral Director who professes a pitiable unrequited love for the newly deceased Tessie. There is much bittersweet humor present in the telling, and Roger Fristoe winningly fumbles through the hapless character’s awkward confession. Then comes Mac, who supports herself with a very specific and gruesome criminal activity: she steals jewelry from corpses during visitation hours. Kim Butterweck brings a lot of comic energy to the role, a necessity given the queasy nature of her actions. Finally there comes Virginia, whose husband has died leaving so much financial debt from so many directions that both she and the audience are overwhelmed. Susan McNeese Lynch works wonders from one seated position, mining the material for broad laughs with a confident delivery.
Thank goodness she, and Mr. Fristoe and Ms. Butterweck, are such capable performers. While I appreciate the idiosyncratic contrast of comic tone against the location and circumstance of a funeral home, the script suffers from a certain disconnection from reality. The opening, entitled “Tell Tale”, may work best because it has the more modest goal of exploring Emil’s sorrow on terms recognizable from our own lives. It doesn’t overreach and offers some subtle comfort. “Thief of Tears” comes next and presents a character that is not easy to sympathize with, until a badly calculated revelation means to convince us otherwise. But it is an unsubtle and manipulative gimmick. The finish, “Thirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti”, pulls a similar questionable trick when, after stacking a seemingly insurmountable set of obstacles in front of Virginia, it sweeps all of her troubles away with the illogic of a middle-grade situation comedy. Of the three, it traffics more certainly in cliché.
The fun was in the performances, but I would wish for better material for this game trio. This playwright has certainly done better work (The Compleat Female Stage Beauty), but Three Viewings badly needs either a subtler touch in the resolution of each monologue, or a bit more lunacy in its tone and texture to make sense of the abrupt transitions and stereotypes. Finally, it seems not to merit the talent given to it here.
March 6-16, 2014
Eve Theatre Company
At Vault 1031
1031 South Sixth Street
Louisville, KY 40202