Thoughts & Musings

Harold & Maude at 2ND STORY THEATRE – Flower Power Lives!

This production features some fine performances, a couple of almost magical special effects, and a story that is so dated it's current again.

by Larry O'Brien,
  • 7th July 20167/07/16
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In keeping with Artistic Director Ed Shea’s avowed goal of staging less cynical plays, 2nd Story Theatre in Warren is offering the stage version of the 1971 cult film classic HAROLD AND MAUDE by Colin Higgins, who wrote both the screenplay and this stage version. If you have never seen the film version, which starred Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort, you should get yourself over to Warren; if you have seen the film, you might want to go by a ticket to see what director Kevin Broccoli hath wrought. This production features some fine performances, a couple of almost magical special effects, and a story that is so dated it’s current again. As Maude, charmingly played by Isabel O’Donnell, explains to Evan Kinnane’s Harold in the second act, “A cliché today is a profound truth tomorrow, and vice versa.” Somebody say, “Amen.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the piece (Is that possible?), HAROLD AND MAUDE tells the story a brief romance between the nineteen-year old-death infatuated Harold and the seventy-nine year old-life infatuated Maude. Most of what Maude has to teach Harold are the eternal verities of the Flower Power Generation: that material possessions are overrated, that rules are suggestions (at best), and that life is for living. I know it sounds simplistic, but this production makes it work,

First of all, the performances: O’Donnell channels her inner Ruth Gordon in a fresh and lively performance. She is well complemented by Kinnane’s getting-his-mind-blown, wide eyed Harold; if these two had not been up to the task, the production would have failed utterly, but they were. Supporting the leads is some very funny work by Paula Faber as Harold’s mother, F. William Oakes as a repeatedly flummoxed priest, and the estimable Valerie Westgate as Harold’s three computer dates; Westgate cannot not be funny and is particularly good as the aspiring actress Sunshine Dore, who gets pretty physical with a perplexed Harold.

While the production was more than okay, Ron Cesario’s costumes spot on, and the performances solid, two of director Kevin Broccoli’s choices really pulled this together. The first was the music: all Cat Stevens all the time and it was evocative and affecting. I don’t think we heard “Peace Train,” but we were on it. The second touch was a lighting effect, which momentarily bathed the audience and cast in starlight; it was just as nice as it sounds.

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