2nd Story Theatre specializes in staging dysfunctional family dramas, and its latest offering, And Miss Reardon Drinks A Little, from playwright Paul Zindel, features plenty of pathos. The show opened in previews on Apr 17 and runs until May 17.
Catherine (Lara Hakeem) the heavy-drinking “Miss Reardon” in the title, shares an apartment with her sister Anna (Erin Olson) who has suffered a mental breakdown after the death of their mother. Anna is also on a break from her teaching job after being accused of molesting one of her students. She is completely neurotic and wanders around in a pink bathrobe. Catherine harbors a simmering resentment of her sister Ceil (Tanya Anderson), who abandoned their dying mother and ran off and married her boyfriend Edward. Ceil is a marked contrast to her two sisters. She is very prim and proper and is mortified when Catherine scoops up handfuls of raw meat from a box of chocolates. The sisters clash over Anna, who suffers from mood swings. She has no love for Ceil either, referring to her as a “queen rhesus monkey” at one point.
The Reardon sisters’ neighbors, Fleur and Bob Stein, pop in one night on their way to the theater. The Steins are extremely nutty and bicker constantly. Bob harangues Anna about her lack of a social life, which brings on a violent episode.
Director Mark Peckham is a master at pacing. Everything reaches a full boil at the climax as the tension between the sisters explodes.
Hakeem, who was so brilliant in 2nd Story’s production of Sylvia, is in fine form here, as Catherine barks out insults at everyone around her. Susie Bowen Powers and Joseph Hendersen, as the Steins, manage to create two of the most singularly unpleasant characters in recent memory. Their comic timing is superb. The real standout is Olson, who has the most challenging role in the show. Anna is a collection of emotional tics. She transforms from little girl vulnerability to snarling contempt in the blink of an eye.
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little has many funny moments to be sure, but it is not a light-hearted comedy in any way. This is a very dark show. The Reardon sisters have serious problems and not even a little bit of alcohol can make them disappear.
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little; Apr 23 – May 17; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays @ 7:30pm, Sundays @ 2:30pm; 2nd Story Theatre/DownStage 28 Market St, Warren; 401.247.4200; boxoffice@2ndStoryTheatre.com; 2ndStoryTheatre.com