2nd Story Wins with Miss Reardon
by Larry O'Brien, Broadwayworld.com
2nd Story Theater in Warren is performing Paul Zindel’s And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little between now and May 17 in the very intimate, seventy-five seat downstairs theater. This is a comedy about family dysfunction, desertion, abandonment and alcoholism; think A Long days Journey into Night meets The Honeymooners. Seventy-five is the magic number, as Miss Reardon was presented in seventy-five uninterrupted minutes. Audience members were told before curtain that no one would be readmitted who had to leave. Forewarned is forearmed.
The play opens with a very funny exchange between Lara Hakeem’s Catherine Reardon and her neighbor/Avon Lady Mrs. Pentrano, played by Marcia Layden. It all seems fun and games until the facts about Catherine Reardon and her sisters Ceil (Tanya Anderson) and Anna (Erin Olson) emerge. The sisters are able to present a more or less united front in the presence of some unwanted, unpleasant visitors; but things fall apart when they are left alone. It would all be very grim if it were not so funny; it would all be very funny if it were not so grim. Each of the sisters has their moments, but in the characters’ lives and in this production, Catherine is the hub, and Hakeem is equal to the task. Her Catherine is funny and tough, wise cracking and self-medicating her way through some very difficult situations with no clear solutions.
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little was first performed in 1967. Judging by the pre-British Invasion music playing as the audience members take their seats, the wallpaper and furnishings in the living room and dining room of Trevor Elliot’s set, and Ron Cesario’s vintage costumes, the play is set about ten years before that. The only off key element in the set was the presence and running of a blender in the dining room. I grew up in the Fifties, and my mother would never have run a blender in the dining room. Talk about dysfunctional. Mark Peckam’s direction got the most out of his resources: the actors all had a nice feel for the absurd nature of both comic and bitter nature of their characters’ lives, and the sets and costumes contributed to a coherent whole. The audience was laughing when it should have been and quiet when it should have been.
Zindel took much of the play from the facts of his difficult life. One would hope that the humor he employed here brought as much satisfaction and relief to him as it does to his audience.