Review: The Old Friends (Raven Theatre)

| March 5, 2016

Lori Myers, Andy Monson, Ron Quade and Judy Lea Steele in The Old Friends, Raven Theatre          
      
   

The Old Friends

Written by Horton Foote 
Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru March 26  |  tix: $18-$42   |  more info 
       
Half-price tickets available  
    


    
  

Antiquated melodrama struggles to find relevance

  

Judy Lea Steele, Montemurro and Monson in The Old Friends, Raven Theatre

    
Raven Theatre presents
    
The Old Friends

Review by Keith Glab

When a play penned by a renowned playwright takes more than 30 years to receive its world premiere production, there might be a reason for it. The Old Friends completes a Horton Foote trilogy whose first installment premiered in the early 1940s.

Lori Myers, Andy Monson, Ron Quade and Judy Lea Steele in The Old Friends, Raven TheatreAlthough I’ve never seen the first two installments of this trilogy, there’s enough tedious exposition to begin the third to render that background unnecessary. Mamie Borden (marssie Mencotti) had pushed her daughter Julia (Judy Lea Steele) to marry a rich man rather than the man she loved. Now over four decades later, Julia openly philanders about with various men while her husband Albert (Ron Quade) silently seethes. Mamie’s son has just died, bringing her daughter-in-law Sybil (Lori Myers) back to live with her. Sybil reunites with an old flame Howard (Will Casey), who labors in a business-partners-with-benefits relationship with the wealthy and self-centered Gertrude (JoAnn Montemurro).

From this setup, melodrama ensues. Gertrude and Julia fight over the attention of a man half their age (Andy Monson); Gertrude and Sybil vie for Howard’s affection. Characters get manipulated with money, tantrums are thrown, and one character even pulls out a gun. The acting is heightened to something akin to a 60s sitcom, which proves appropriate given the over-the-top subject matter.

Such open infidelity and talk of divorce in the early 1960s doesn’t ring true. So many characters come off as unlikeable (Julia and Gertrude have no redeeming qualities), and even the likeable ones are difficult to identify with when their central concern is monetary minutiae amongst the wealthy. The message of choosing love over affluence gets rather heavy-handed, and from what I gather already explored in the first two plays in the series.

Despite all these problems, it’s hard not to get caught up in the melodrama during the play’s second act, silly as it may be. You can’t help but root for Sybil and Howard to make it work, as Myers and Casey make those characters tender and identifiable. Mencotti’s portrayal of an inebriated Mamie is just delightful, and Aneisa Hicks turns a small housemaid role into one of the play’s most interesting characters. Jeffrey D. Kmiec‘s set not only looks good, but seamlessly transitions into three different houses during the course of the play. A second act set change happens in character and provides several nice little moments.

Lori Myers and Montemurro in The Old Friends by Horton Foote, Raven Theatre

The bigger picture, however, shows a play written in the early 80s, set in the early 60s, but that has little relevance today. Obviously there are still people today who marry for wealth, prestige, or circumstance, but it’s hard to get too invested in the troubles of people who make that choice. It’s certainly difficult to invest yourself in the worry of wealthy folks possibly having slightly less money. The Old Friends received its world premiere in 2013, but had probably lost its relevance decades prior.

  
Rating: ★★
  
   

The Old Friends continues through March 26th at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $18-$42, and are available by phone (773-338-2177) or online through OvationTix.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at RavenTheatre.com(Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes, includes an intermission)

Photos by Dean La Prairie 


  

artists

cast

Will Casey (Howard Ratliff), Aneisa Hicks (Catherine), marssie Mencotti (Mamie Borden), Andy Monson (Tom Underwood), JoAnn Montemurro (Gertrude Ratliff), Lori Myers (Sybil Borden), Kayla Pulley (Hattie), Ron Quade (Albert Price), Judy Lea Steele (Julia Price)

behind the scenes

Michael Menendian (director), Cathy Darrow (stage manager), Jeffrey D. Kmiec (set design), Kurt Ottinger (lighting design), Eric Backus (sound design), kClare McKellaston (costume design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design), Anne Shapiro (production manager), Angela Forshee (asst. director, dramaturg), Kelly Hovsepian (asst. stage manager), Conor Clark (technical director), Merje Veske (scenic artist), Dean La Prairie (photographer)

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Category: 2016 Reviews, Keith Glab, Raven Theatre, Video, YouTube

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