Family dysfunction stacked high and covered with syrup
|The New Colony presents|
|Written by Tara Sissom
Directed by Sean Kelly
at Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through Dec 19 | tickets: $10-$25 | more info
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
Independence Day is an annual celebration of liberation. For Beatrice, this year is D-Day for the release of a captive, her brother. The New Colony presents the world premiere of Pancake Breakfast. Beatrice resurrects the 4th of July family tradition. Her plan is to get the estranged family together to intervene in her mother’s unhealthy relationship with her brother. But before the clan can instigate the interference, they need to re-enact the holiday family rituals from pancake breakfast to fireworks. ‘Going home again’ is a craving never quite satisfied. Do pancakes ever taste as good as the childhood memory of them? Pancake Breakfast is family dysfunction stacked high and served with fruits and nuts.
Playwright Tara Sissom devised the Pancake Breakfast script in collaboration with the actors. Sissom laid out the premise and the ensemble developed individual characters. The result is an IHOP menu of tasty options that don’t quite go together for one well-balanced meal. Some of the characters are a bounty of flavor. Arlene Malinowski (Lillian) is a delicious loud-mouthed, mean-spirited, mother flapjack. Evan Linder (Randy) is a delectably hilarious, Asperger’s son-of-a-bitch. Jack McCabe (Arlie) stirs the pot for laughs as an eccentric nut. Megan Johns (Darcy)smokes the pot as the amusing, carefree 2nd wife. It’s these tangy portrayals that overshadow the other milder ingredients. What are the other tastes? Gary Tiedemann is definitely sweet, but how does he blend with his bitter partner, Andrew Hobgood (Bobby)? And Steve Ratcliff (Bud) seems a little bland for marrying zesty… both times.
The script can be confusing. In the first scenes, it’s unclear who Eleanor (Susan Veronika Adler) is. Adler brings some spice but is more seasoned for the grandmother’s role than the grown-up version of a youthful single parent. Thea Lux (Beatrice) goes to a lot of trouble to serve pancakes but seems more like a waffle eater. Lux is a quandary. What does she want? And where is she going? Her last line at the show’s end adds to the mystery.
Director Sean Kelly stages the show on a long linear stage. It’s an interesting floor plan representing a variety of rooms (scenic design by Nick Sieben). But in the cavernous Viaduct Theatre, this layout muffles some pertinent dialogue because of the obstructive angles. Sometimes the audio barrier is actually another actor standing directly in front of the speaker. From the southeast corner, a tub conversation is muffled between the submerged and the percher.
Simultaneous staged activity occurs for a horizontal visual feast, tasty or otherwise. In an initial scene, the march to the breakfast table is a light-hearted patriotic salute. Often when family gets together for a holiday, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Relative cooking can get confusing. No need to start from scratch, Playwright Sissom just needs to clarify the recipe’s direction and whisk the lumps until smooth. Pancake Breakfast is a Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity combo platter in the making. Order up!
Pancake Breakfast continues thru December 19th, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm. Running Time: 100 minutes with no intermission.
|Light Designer:||Jeremy Getz|
|Set Designer:||Nick Sieben|
|Sound Design:||Christopher Kriz|
|Costume Designer:||Claire Paolini|
|Stage Manager:||Shelby Wilson|
Susan Veronika Adler, Andrew Hobgood, Megan Johns, Evan Linder, Thea Lux, Arlene Malinowski, Jack McCabe, Steve Ratcliff, Gary Tiedemann
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
With all the anticipation of the breakfast show, Theatre Bob and I go to Golden Nugget Pancake House, 2406 W. Diversey, to get in the mood. The extensive menu offers plenty of choices and bottomless cup of coffee with an order. Our server is friendly and generous with the coffee refills. Focused on pancakes, we both choose the whole grain variety with granola and nuts. A little more on the exotic side, Bob garnishes his with bananas. We both opt for whip cream! They are delicious and substantially filling. Despite our best attempts, neither of us could win a pancake eating contest. A Golden Nugget semi-regular, Bob hosts and treats! It’s the syrup on my short stack day.