Guest review by Suzanne Graham Paire
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012, 1:03 PM
The Montgomery Theater in Souderton has opened its 2012 season with Becky Shaw, written by Gina Gionfriddo and directed by Tom Quinn. Gionfriddo, winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Helen Merrill Award, has also written Guinevere, After Ashley, Safe and Trepidation Nation, as well as scripts for TV’s Law & Order and Boardwalk Empire.
Becky Shaw invites audience members to peer into a chapter of the life of the Slater family, three months after the passing of Mr. Slater, which left the surviving family members with the task of reassembling a new existence. Their fight for emotional sanity and financial security propels the plot.
Gionfriddo shows her wit via clever one-liners which at times intelligently delve into the minds and motivations of the general populace. Overall, however, the plot has a manic feel. It fluctuates quite abruptly from humor to anger, from fluff to the important. At times, she treats the serious with contempt and treats the foolish with admiration. Gionfriddo understands people for sure, and she knows how to land a joke, but this play seems like a salad of words with a crouton of truth (to use a John Cleese-ism).
One views Modern Family in order to laugh. One views a Bourne film in order to suspend reality via the excitement of a chase, a hand-to-hand fight and an intelligent albeit unlikely storyline. Gionfriddo has the potential to entertain her audiences either with absurdity and hilarity, or insightful, intelligent conversation, but her balancing act of these is off in Becky Shaw. It seemed more like a tennis match, bouncing alternately between the smart and the daft, between the beautiful and the profane. Additionally, the redundant, uncalled-for overuse of F-bombs was a tiresome detriment.
The actors were consistent and solid in the portrayal of their characters, delivering their lines well. Rachel Brennan (Suzanna) and Damon Bonetti (Max) served up the agitated energies of their characters; Will Dennis (Andrew), the calm of his; Marcia Saunders (Susan), the authority of hers; and Kim Carson (Becky Shaw), the mysteriousness of hers.
The highlight of the play for this reviewer was the introduction of Carson’s Becky Shaw toward the middle of Act I, which led to the play’s best humor, dialogue and relatable interchanges.
There is no doubt that Carson, a six-time Barrymore Award nominee (and one-time winner) by, presumably, comfortably before the age of 30, is tremendous at her craft.
One goes to Walt Disney World for the rides and, while there, thoroughly enjoys all the surrounding activities. In this case, one should view Becky Shaw for the purpose of watching Carson’s performance and, while there, enjoy and appreciate the performances of Bonetti, Brennan, Dennis and Saunders.
Next at the Montgomery Theater will be Don’t Talk to the Actors by Tom Dudzick (April 4 – April 28), followed by Any Wednesday by Muriel Resnik (June 7 – July 1).