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Family Meeting: The Brothers Marx Comes to Daydream Theatre

Daydream Theatre, fuelled by the always unique creations of playwright Lenny Schwartz, stands alone in the crowded field of Rhode Island independents. Whether presenting bizarre glimpses of post-apocalyptic shopping frenzies or skillfully crafted narrative biographies, Daydream has carved out a niche at the Bell Street Chapel. Free of the shackles of subscriber concerns, audience demographics, or production royalties, Schwartz and Company are free to explore whatever fancy they wish and we’re all the better for it. Daydream’s current offering, The Brothers Marx, follows in the tradition of their superb Buster Keaton biography and offers a skillfully presented, yet charmingly ramshackle, account of the lives and careers of Groucho and his siblings.

A quick glance at any Marx Brothers history will sum up the essential plot points, but in Schwartz’s hands, it’s not merely a rehash of events, but a nicely developed interweaving of first-, second-, and third-person narrative combined with re-imaginings of classic bits and performances. A dizzying display  of ex-wives, agents, and internecine squabbling allows us to glimpse the Marx Brothers as people caught up in the usual struggles of love, money, and addiction, even as they climb off the vaudeville stage onto the big screen. We lose a little of the why as we race through the story, but what comes through it all is the struggle of a Jewish family in an era when global politics and entertainment gave them every reason not to succeed. What could be a touchy subject is handled with self-deprecating humor often bordering on the absurd, as when Groucho observes that brother Chico is in danger of “losing the Italian accent and sounding Jewish again.” More in line with Schwartz’s style is the observation that the entertainment industry was becoming “a cornucopia of Jews … a Jew-ucopia!”

Any Daydream performance features a dizzying array of performers and Marx is no exception. The five titular brothers are mostly exceptional with Ryan Hanley’s Groucho not only a spot-on impersonation, but a driving force for both the original humor of the script and the classic asides we expect to hear. In strong competition for focus is Beatriz Lopez as the loudly mute Harpo. The cross-gender aspect of Lopez’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite Marx is irrelevant here: she owns the physicality and the manic, yet melancholy, persona of the man who quietly charmed the world while maintaining his privacy. Geoffrey David Monti is a maelstrom of libido as Chico, and John Robert Faiola’s Gummo Marx is commanding for his brief time on stage. It is Mat Clerrico as Zeppo who has to walk the line between obligatory straight man and overshadowed bit player. The abuse he took from his brothers in real life is palpable onstage and Clerrico struggles, as did the real Zeppo, to find his place among such dynamic personalities, which in turn, makes his performance all the more effective. And, of all the Marx brothers, Schwartz writes Zeppo as something more than two-dimensional. The cast of supporting characters who come and go throughout serve as nicely defined foils for the vagaries of the clan, and Kathleen Seagriff’s over-the-top caricature of Marx mainstay Margaret Dumont is amusing and appropriate. Missy Marine, a Daydream regular, handles Groucho’s first wife Ruth with grace.

Schwartz directs his own work, which serves to streamline the process, but also ensures that, for better or worse, enough goofy humor filters through whatever seriousness may be embedded in the subject matter. The Brothers Marx ventures into serious territory, but as Schwartz writes, “There should be dancing in the streets when a clown comes to town.”

Performances will run through November 17 at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence. For ticket information, call 401-644-2293 or visit www.smarttix.com.




TRIST Presents Ultimate Evil in Richard III

William Shakespeare’s Richard III, currently playing at Roots Arts and Cultural Center in Providence, demonstrates the evil lengths one person will go to in pursuit of a goal. Presented by The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theater (TRIST), this fast-paced production is chock full of dastardly deeds, double-crosses, and murder in every dark corner.

Directed by TRIST Artistic Director Bob Colonna, Richard III is entertaining not only for its non-stop action, but also for its dark comedy. Bobby Casey, as the twisted lead character, Richard III, is skin-crawlingly repulsive for the depths to which he sinks to acquire the Throne of England, and yet charmingly silly while attempting to explain the motives behind his behavior.  And bodies drop so quickly, one hardly has time to breathe.

Taking out other heirs to the Throne one by one, Casey plays Richard as the ultimate manipulator. He manipulates the audience for sympathy, just as he manipulates the other characters throughout the play. Richard is so persuasive that his victims seem to march knowingly to their own demise. Poor Lady Anne, played with poise and dignity by Leann Heath, allows herself to be seduced by Richard, even though she knows no good awaits her.

Joe Mecca is Buckingham, Richard’s cohort in crime, who plays a steady support to Richard’s lurching personality. Mike Daniels, as both the Duke of Clarence and the Bishop, has a clear, strong voice and wonderful presence. The acoustics at Roots Center are good, but even better is the distinct articulation Colonna demands of his actors. Pay close attention to the fools in this play, Richard III’s bumbling henchmen, Catesby (Christopher Ferreira) and Ratcliffe (David Kane), who have some of the best lines.

Madness and sorcery, two of Shakespeare’s favorite themes, are represented in Mad Queen Margaret, played to rafter-shaking intensity by Meryn Flynn. Flynn’s Margaret rails against the wrongs done to her and others that she is unable to avenge. She represents the fury of all oppressed women, broken and left for dead, yet still alive. Mad Margaret might be the only force to stop Richard’s reign of terror.

Many of the characters in Richard III face conflicting emotions. Even Richard’s own mother, the Duchess of York, played with a sad sincerity by Carol Drowne, condemns her son for his actions, yet cannot deny her motherly love.

The two youngest actors, Jonah King as Young Prince Edward, and Jasper Summers as Young Duke of York are outstanding. Rounding out this solid cast is Rob Roy in the dual role of Hastings and Richmond, Rosanna Cavanaugh as the bereaved Queen Elizabeth, Mishell Lilly as Brakenbury, and Sara DeAngelos as Jane Shore.

Roots Arts and Cultural Center is located at 276 Westminster Street, Providence, RI. Tickets are $12. Go to www.rootsprovidence.com/trist or call 401-331-6118. Dates remaining are Nov. 16, 17, and 18. Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.




Artist Profile: Jessica Slocum is a teacher with a dual career. However, dancing is her identity.

Through movement, Jessica expresses her art. She teaches at Newport Academy of Ballet and religiously takes four classes a week there. A former member of Island Moving Company, she has performed professionally with Austin Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Santa Cruz, and has danced throughout Seattle and Providence.

Jessica Slocum is also a teacher at the MET in Providence. She received her Masters in education from URI. She tries to incorporate creativity into her classroom and teaching style by exposing her students to the arts in ways that would normally be unavailable to them.




Trinity Rep Season Ends with hit ‘Boeing, Boeing’

It’s always important for a theater season to end on a high note, ensuring that audiences will eagerly anticipate the following year. After a mixed year, with more hits than misses, Trinity Repertory Company ends on a high note with their production of the uproarious comedy, Boeing, Boeing, directed by company member Fred Sullivan, Jr. With this breezy play that flies by like a 747, Sullivan and his perfect cast keep audiences laughing riotously from takeoff to landing.

Bernard, an American living inParis, has devised a way to have three fiancés at the same time. They are all stewardesses, flying for different airlines on different flight schedules, and by keeping close track of their departures and arrivals, he juggles them with precision. An old friend from school, Robert, arrives to visit and things soon begin to fall apart, as each lady of the sky drops in unexpectedly.

Company member Joe Wilson, Jr. plays the lothario Bernard and it’s his best performance of the season. While his style is often too-stiff and overly serious, it works in his favor this time around. This is due to how much fun it is watching him play opposite to that, seeing him completely unravel as his stiffness gives way to panic attacks, freaking out and completely losing his cool.

Bernard’s “international harem” of fiancés includes three women, each with a different nationality and a name beginning with “G.” First, my least favorite is Gloria, the American. Actress Rebecca Gibel is a lot of fun to watch but the character is little more than a stereotype, a loud, obnoxious, brassy and promiscuous American blonde.

Second is the French Gabriella, played by Liz Morgan. Morgan is given a little more to do, as Gabriella gets to have some emotions and is a more fleshed out character. She’s still a little one-note, as “violent tempered” is her major, if not only, personality trait. Still, Morgan is delightful and hilarious in the role.

Finally, easily my favorite of the three is Gretchen, the German. She’s the most like a real person and the least like a caricature or stereotype. She’s also played perfectly by Amanda Dolan, who gives Gretchen some real life and real emotions, ranging from joy to devastation to sadness to love. Of the three, she lights up the stage the brightest.

Bernard is supported by his French maid, Bertha. Not like the other French maids you’ve seen, Bertha is older, world-weary, bitter and jaded. Her caustic and sarcastic sense of humor hysterical as she tries to hold herself together while she’s caught up in the whirlwind. Actress Nance Williamson gets a lot of laugh lines in the role and hits almost every one perfectly.

Truly, the show belongs to Trinity company member Stephen Thorne as Robert. He has shined in supporting roles all season and it’s great to see him given something that allows him to really show off what he can do. Like a young Dick Van Dyke, he has impressive control of his body and ability to use it for physical comedy. At the same time, he’s an immensely talented actor who takes the pilot’s chair in this production and propels it into the stratosphere. Everyone should buckle their seat belts and join him for the ride.

Boeing-Boeing, Trinity Rep,201 Washington St,Providence. www.trinityrep.com Runs thru May 13

 




SBRI Presents Spring ‘Tour De Ballet’ at RIC

This Mother’s Day weekend why not take mom on a trip around the world to see how various cultures celebrate their heritage through dance. To do so, you will not have to use any SkyMiles, just set your GPS for Roberts Hall at RI College where The State Ballet of RI will present Tour de Ballet.

As SBRI Artistic Director Herci Marsden reaches back into the company’s repertoire, prepare for stops inIrelandfor traditional Celtic dance,Francefor a saucy “Can-Can,”Italyfor the breathless “Tarantella,”Spainfor the fiery and romantic pas de deux from Don Quixote,Viennafor some waltzes and East Slavic for the powerful “Polovtsian Dances” from Borodin’s Prince Igor.

But first the production will open with the world premiere of SAFARI choreographed by former SBRI principal dancer and resident choreographer Mia Godbout; emerging local composer Christy Isles was commissioned to create the musical score for this ballet, which will be performed by a live musical ensemble. According to SBRI Executive Director Ana Marsden Fox, this is the first time since the 1960’s that music was “created just for State Ballet.”

SAFARI certainly fits the program’s travel motif especially, as Godbout explains, since each letter represents certain styles of dance: S for Spanish; A for American, F for French, R for Russian; and I for Irish. Godbout adds, “It is a nice introduction for the rest of Tour de Ballet as the countries referenced in my piece are represented throughout the show. It is also a great stand-alone piece if we ever decide to present it at other venues around RI.”

And while Godbout has choreographed other ballets, the twenty-one minute SAFARI represents her most ambitious effort to date. “This is my biggest project to date,” she affirms, “I worked on several shorter pieces for SBRI and choreographed many pieces for local area dance schools. In college, I won an informal competition for a piece I choreographed that SBRI ended up performing at studio performances and demonstrations.  A few years ago, I collaborated with [SBRI dancers] Mark Marsden and Shana Fox in “Gracefully Gershwin” which was also a one-act ballet.  Most recently, I collaborated with author David Ira Rottenberg and created a short ballet set to a live reading of his book Gwendolyn the Graceful Pig. But, this is my first one-act ballet on my own for a large-scale show!”

Godbout also explains how working directly with the composer has helped the creative process, “Generally, choreographers have to suit their steps to the music as it is. Yet, I have been able to ask Christy for sections to be lengthened or cut back if needed or the addition of instruments to enhance the steps.” Godbout concludes, “I think I have definitely been spoiled as a choreographer during this process! Christy has attended almost all rehearsals, watched the choreography and took notes so we would all be working together when it is performed live. She herself is playing in each movement, either on the cello or piano.”

As for future plans, Godbout observes, “This season has been incredible! I have had many exciting opportunities, with this show at the top of that list!  But, I definitely need a bit of a break! My poor family has seen me trying out steps to Christy’s music in every room of our house…even outside! I have put in long hours at the studio, so a bit of a rest is in order starting May 13!”

Tour de Ballet, featuring over 40 local dancers, runs May 11th and 12th at Roberts Hall at8:00PMand2:30PM. For tickets visit: www.stateballet.com.

 




Trinity Rep Performers Show Great Chemistry

One of the exciting things about theater in rep is experiencing both the differences and similarities between the shows. Trinity Repertory Company’s Three By Three offers area audiences this unique opportunity. The first two shows, Sparrow Grass and Mourner’s Bench, certainly have some sharply contrasting elements, but they deal with many of the same issues. They deal with the ties of family and how those ties can be strained, broken, healed or severed forever.

The “bench” of the Mourner’s Bench is a piano bench. A specific bench at a piano in a particular room, a bench and a room where an unspeakable tragedy once occurred. Through three acts, the audience experiences how that tragedy impacts the lives of people who are connected to the bench, and the house, in different ways. While they have different kinds of connections to it, they are touched very deeply by the memories the room holds for them as well as what the room provides for them in the present.
Playwright George Brant does mine some familiar territory here, that a particular object or place can have profound meaning for people. It might a room in a house, such as the well-known play The Dining Room, to the house as a whole, as in Clybourne Park, which Trinity presented earlier in the season. Still, Brant finds new ways to connect these characters to this place. Some of the relationships are surprising, some of the memories, emotions and responses are shocking.
Along the way, Brant offers much to think about. Themes running through these interconnected stories include love, forgiveness, redemption, justice, revenge, mortality, faith and hope. All heavy stuff but the playwright handles them well, as does Director Michael Perlman and his cast. They trust the writing and each other as they allow the play to move at its own pace, letting them happen naturally.
The cast, all resident acting company members, work nicely together as their characters struggle to face the tragedy they share, whether they all realize it or not. Each of the three acts features just two actors and the pairs have magnificent chemistry during their time together.
Act one features the wonderful Angela Brazil and Mauro Hantman, giving his best performance of the season, as a brother and sister. They experienced the horrible event most directly and it’s a powerful scene as they try to deal with still-lingering repercussions. The second act deals with two aunts of that brother-sister pair, as they try to handle the post-tragedy logistics, such as who will raise the children. Janice Duclos and Phyllis Kay are fabulous together as two more siblings with some serious issues. It’s especially fun to watch Kay play such a different role from one she’s performing at the same time in Sparrow Grass. Finally, act three highlights the couple who purchased the house after the tragedy happened. The power of the place deeply affects them as well in a scene played impeccably by Anne Scurria and Timothy Crowe.
Knowing that many involved with the play are also doing two other shows at the same time makes the whole thing even more impressive. The quality of the production, the play itself and the performances, is sure to bring audiences back for the third and final production of Three By Three in rep.
The Mourners’ Bench, Trinity Rep. 201 Washington St, Providence. Runs thru May 24




Collision Shines Bright in ‘August Osage Country’

August Osage County

‘This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends,” and so ends Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County running through April 1 at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre. Some may recognize those final utterings from the final stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” with the title, many believe, serving as a subtle allusion to the character of Kurtz from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness referred to as “hollow at the core.”
Likewise, many of the characters who populate Letts’ over-the-top look at a dysfunctional family living in the wastelands of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. posses a Kurtz-like hollowness. The men are all impotent and the women are damaged beyond repair. The play itself is part comedy, part tragedy but thoroughly depressing!
Much of the action centers around the relationships between a pill-popping, mean-spirited and foul-mouthed mother, Violet, and her three daughters: Barbara, the oldest and outwardly the most competent but inwardly very damaged; Ivy, the most fragile of the three who never worked up the courage to leave home and resents everybody for it; and Karen, so eager for a meaningful relationship that she ignores her finance’s sleazy and perverted behavior.
The denouement occurs when the girls return home for their father’s (Beverly) funeral following his suicide. Fatherless and soulless, the family airs all its dirty laundry during a meal commemorating Beverly’s passing, presided over, ironically enough, by Johnna, a Native American he hired as a caretaker for Violet shortly before his disappearance. Proud of her own family heritage, Johnna wears a necklace that contains pieces of her umbilical cord, thus preserving her lineage and her soul, in contrast to the family she looks after whose souls, after death, are condemned to “walk the earth looking for where [they] belong.”
The Act II family dinner, which Violet refers to as “truth telling time” while verbally attacking all present, loudly serves as the play’s highlight. Following some extremely powerful exchanges between Violet and Barbara, with Barbara literally trying to pry the pills from her mother’s hands: “Try to get ‘em away from me and I’ll eat you alive … I’ll eat you alive girl,” the audience sits in a stunned silence as the lights rise for the second of two short intermissions.
The production features a very capable cast, but Lynne Collinson’s portrayal of Violet is marvelously gut-wrenching. Whether stumbling across the stage in a drug induced stupor or lamenting with her daughters during brief moments of lucidity, Collinson makes many of the unbelievable things occurring in this play somewhat believable. As Barbara, Joanne Fayan also has some very fine moments with the unenviable tasking of having to match Collinson’s pitch and power.
And while Letts’ August: Osage County presents a powerful and compelling look at a family’s crimpling dysfunctions, his continually pushing the envelope, just when you think things have hit bottom, the bottom gives way once again, seems to be asking a bit too much from the audience. But, I recall a writing professor who once confided in me that he no longer felt comfortable determining whether or not his students’ writing was believable or plausible. After a brief pause, he concludes, “look at the world we live in.”
August: Osage County, 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St. Warren. Runs thru April 1. www.2ndstorytheatre.com




Tartuffe

There are likely hundreds of colleges and universities with theater programs in the United States. One has to wonder if locally,University of Rhode Island is at a slight disadvantage. It’s nestled in the woods of South County. It doesn’t have the connection to a professional theater. It’s a University better known for sciences, engineering and the like. Still, while all that may be true, the theater department at URI consistently puts together excellent productions of a very high quality.

Case in point is the current wonderful production of Moliere’s play Tartuffe. Written in 1664, it revolves around the title character, an imposter and hypocrite who pretends to be a pious religious man so he can deceive a wealthy man, robbing him of his house and money. While the head of the household believes Tartuffe’s lies, his family conspires to reveal the truth.

Like any good fast-paced, bawdy, slapstick comedy, it’s all in the timing. Director Tom Gleadow has gotten the timing down right. The physical comedy really works well and as far as I could tell, no opportunity for a comic bit was left unfulfilled. He keeps things moving from beginning to end, the pace never lags and the time flies by.

Gleadow is assisted in this by an ensemble that was clicking on all cylinders at the performance I attended. Watching college actors is always a joy. They are young, enthusiastic and full of energy. They also know each other very well, spending so much time together in rehearsals, classes, other activities, in their dorms and around campus. One could argue that they know and trust each other better than other casts would.

Miles Boucher is among those who get the most stage time, as Orgon, the head of the household who is for a while duped by Tartuffe. He’s a charismatic and impressive actor who can also handle physical comedy with skill. Elmire, his wife who is the object of Tartuffe’s desire, is also excellent at the slapstick comedy while showcasing her acting talent. As the sleazy, smarmy Tartuffe himself, Birk Wozniak does a great job of being creepy and devious, and I mean that as a compliment.

Orgon’s daughter, Mariane, is played by Emily Foster, an actress who sort of typifies the cast. In a word, she is game. Up for whatever the role calls for, and doing it with both energy and a sense of fun. As a whole, the entire group seems to be having a lot of fun, which makes it even more entertaining for the audience.

Technically speaking, the show is not as much fun and doesn’t really live up to the show’s other elements. Costume design is serviceable, save for a few unfortunate wigs and ugly pairs of shoes. Thankfully, the lighting design is unobtrusive, but does have a few neat tricks up its sleeve. As for the set design, the show’s low point for me, it can only be described as lazy.

Still, these young performers bring Moliere’s play, still relevant today in many ways, to exuberant life. One can only hope that they will maintain that exuberance, passion and enthusiasm throughout their future lives and careers, theatrical or otherwise. And that URI will continue to provide them with the opportunity to create great performances like this one.

Tartuffe runs  through March 4 atUniversityofRhode Island.

Visit www.uri.edu/theatre




A Few Good Men

It is perhaps one of the most familiar movie catchphrases in recent history. Jack Nicholson, in full military regalia, sitting in a courtroom, shouting at Tom Cruise. “You can’t handle the truth,” he says. The truth is, the well-known movie A Few Good Men was a stage play first. And it’s back on an area stage at Little Theater of Fall River.

Director Kathy Castro notes that she fell in love with the story when the movie came out. “I thought the story was sensational and so relevant; and the acting was great!  It would be difficult to say how many times I’ve seen it since. Twenty-plus, easily, and each time, I learn something new.  It is a masterful piece of writing, and Aaron Sorkin is a masterful storyteller.”

       A few years ago, Castro learned of the play version and right away wanted to direct it, putting it before the play selection committee in 2010. She notes that the play comes with great name-recognition, partly due to that already-mentioned catchphrase. The playwright also has something to do with it. Castro notes, “In these ensuing 20 years since the film, Aaron Sorkin has also become quite famous through his work on the TV series, The West Wing and his many Academy-Award nominations and wins for film screenplays.  Last year he won for Social Network, and this year he was nominated again for Moneyball.”

Having spent more than a year researching in preparation, Castro says she has read everything she could find on the original production of the play in 1988. She’s also done a lot of research on military protocol. She says, “Sorkin started to write A Few Good Men on the back of cocktail napkins when he worked as a bartender in the Broadway district of NYC in the 1980’s.  His sister, who was a member of the Navy JAG Corps stationed atGuantanamo, told him a story about a hazing incident on the base, and that became the basis for the play.”

“Be it the military or any other large organization, there is a need for constant vigilance about how “business” is done,” Castro says. “It’s very easy for situations to get out of hand because people get out of hand and lose sight of what they should be doing – and why…That’s the real lesson of A Few Good Men:  they challenged the wrong, against big obstacles, and they won!”

In terms of what is morally right and wrong, Castro says there should be no difference in or outside the military. “When people break the law, and justify that their actions are ok – that’s wrong – military included.”

Castro calls her cast and crew a “dream to work with,” including the nineteen actors and one actress. “We’ve been rehearsing twice per week, often for three hours, and that has worked.  We did a military Training Day in January to learn how to stand, salute, march, drill, etc. We have some members of the cast who have served in the Armed Services, and they were very helpful.”

“The show is written like a movie, with very fast scene changes, so that has been a challenge,” Castro says, “But everyone is helping, making suggestions, working as team.  What director could ask for more?”

A Few Good Men runs  March 8 through March 11

at Little Theatre of Fall River

Visit www.littletheatre.net




Sparrow Grass

Trinity Repertory Company has a penchant for thinking outside of the box, for trying things that are new or unexpected. The folks at Trinity seem to like to shake things up a bit, often with success and audience approval. This season, they are presenting a “theatrical event” called Three by Three, with three original plays performed in rotating repertory on the Dowling stage.

           Sparrow Grass, which just opened, is the first of these world premieres. Sitting through it, though, you may feel that you are watching all three plays at once, crammed into one. In fact, there are about five or six different plays fighting for supremacy of this one script.

Simply put, it’s the story of a family who, under a façade of civility and perfection, are really, really screwed up. At play’s opening, Paula, her maid Isabelle and daughter Teddie are awaiting the arrival of the “Colonel,” Paula’s husband who has been serving in a war. At the same time, the prodigal son, Nate, unexpectedly reappears on the scene. The feeling that things are not going to go well is prophetic as the you-know-what slowly and spectacularly hits the fan.

Playwright Curt Columbus throws so much at the fan that it ends up a big mess. Is it a son-father revenge play? A family drama? An anti-war play? A steamy potboiler featuring lots of incest? Is it about the ravages of war? Loss of identity? The darkness underneath the “perfect” family? Likely, it’s all of the above. According to the director notes, it’s a modern retelling of the Phaedra myth, about a mother’s forbidden passion for her stepson. With so much else going on, and so much that is more interesting, the mother-stepson romance just seems superfluous. There are more nuanced and effective ways than this to comment on the state of the family in our society.

Eventually, by the time things got loud and violent, I had stopped caring. And stopped wondering what would, in the end, happen to these people. It’s hard to discern who to root for or to know whose story this really is we’re watching. It’s not helped by the fact that the play is schizophrenic, bouncing back and forth between stories and plotlines, leaving lots of dangling threads unexplained.

Truly, the stellar cast deserved better. Having never seen him in a lead role before, Richard Donnelly was impressive as Ralph, the “Colonel,” who I kept wishing the play was really about. The story of a war veteran, coming home to face what he’s done, dealing with the loss of identity and perhaps the loss of his own mind, would have been a far better play. Phyllis Kay, as Paula, was equally brilliant. Her scenes with Donnelly are great, they have wonderful chemistry together.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast are mostly wasted. Barbara Meek and Jaime Rosenstein play the stereotypical sassy black maid and angst-ridden teenager, respectively. Tyler Lansing Weaks spends the bulk of the play with no shirt on, most of the time for no reason. His character, Nate, is either maniacal and devious, or he’s completely insane. Like many aspects of these characters, we never get to really understand what’s going on deep down inside, underneath the surface. That, like much of the play, is an unfortunate missed opportunity.

Sparrow Grass runs  through May 13 at Trinity Repertory Company.

Visit www.trinityrep.com