Thoughts & Musings

2nd Story’s ‘Harold and Maude’ is a show for the ages

Colin Higgins' bittersweet play about an older woman who teaches a young man how to live gets a terrific production in Warren.

by Channing Gray, Providence Journal
  • 11th July 201611/07/16
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It’s laughter through the tears at 2nd Story Theatre, where you can catch a terrific production of “Harold and Maude,” Colin Higgins’ bittersweet play about the older woman who teaches a young man how to live.

The play has its thin spots. Paula Faber might have done more with the role of Harold’s pushy mom, and Bill Oakes was something of a one-note as the priest. But the relationship between Evan Kinnane’s Harold and Isabel O’Donnell as the wise, politically incorrect Maude has a lot of juice to it.

They’re wonderful together, Kinnane as the withdrawn neurotic preoccupied with death and O’Donnell as his unwitting mentor who celebrates life at every turn.

She’s not above stealing cars, and not paying her bills. She’s a free spirit who just doesn’t play by the rules — right up to the end.

The joy of this production, skillfully directed by Kevin Broccoli, is watching Kinnane emerge from his shell and learn to live and to love.

If Kinnane’s name sounds familiar, he made his debut at 2nd Story in “Auntie Mame” a decade ago, when he was about 10 or so. I said at the time he was the most talented child actor I’d seen. And the basic talent has brought him to the point of being a real pro.

At least he has a sensitive side, and a bit of the outrageous, as he fakes his death before a string of online dates. Those were all played by Valerie Westgate, who was fabulous, capturing three very different personalities. But her shining moment was as Sunshine Dore, the wannabe actress who applauds Harold’s feigned attempt at hara-kiri as a brilliant moment of theater.

Broccoli has staged this play in the round, and gone with a series of boxes for props, just as 2nd Story did in its first couple of seasons on Market Street. It’s simple, but effective, as a place to conduct funerals and hide treasures.

If you’re looking for something light and frothy, though, this might not be the play for you. It takes a couple of unexpected turns before it’s over, and you might want to bring a hankie.

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