Harold & Maude Review
An easy-going summertime show.By Kathie Raleigh, Woonsocket Call
Many stories tell of a free-spirited character unlocking a withdrawn, guarded being and introducing him or her to the pleasures of living, but “Harold and Maude” is among the best known.
Originally a 1971 film, the story was adapted for the stage by its late author, Colin Higgins (who also wrote the screenplay for “Nine to Five” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” among others), and that version now shows up as part of 2nd Story Theatre’s “Golden Summer.”
Maude is the kooky “golden girl” of the story, while Harold is the privileged but unhappy 19-year-old who develops a deep affection for her, despite a 60-year difference in age.
This set-up is ripe for some touchy-feely moments, but most of the tale is comic – even Harold’s elaborately staged suicide attempts, diagnosed by his curly-haired, leisure-suit-wearing psychiatrist as cries for attention.
The play definitely has a 1970s vibe, reflected intentionally in Ron Cesario’s great costuming, but which makes some of the play’s attitudes and platitudes – including the one about no snowflake being like another – cliché. “Well, a cliché today is a profundity tomorrow – and vice versa,” Maude says, and director Kevin Broccoli acknowledges that by not overdoing either one.
He does, however, bring out the comedy. Even though there isn’t much depth in the way Maude’s character is written, actor Isabel O’Donnell exudes Maude’s wacky joie de vivre.
Broccoli’s best comic tool is a wonderful Valerie Westgate as three very different women recruited online by Harold’s mother as date material for her maladjusted son. The fun is that these women have their own maladjustments, and Westgate is hilarious portraying them.
Close runners-up are the always funny F. William Oakes as a beleaguered priest whose path crosses Maude’s more often than he’d like, and Paula Faber as Harold’s alternately overbearing and dismissive mother. A second-act scene between O’Donnell and Faber that is predicated on a misunderstanding is a master class on comic expression.
The star of the show, however, is Evan Kinnane as the morbid Harold: Note that he meets Maude at a funeral for someone neither knows; attending funerals is just something they like to do. Kinnane doesn’t have much to say in Act I, but as he comes out of his shell in Act II, he creates a plausible personality for his character. His nascent happiness feels authentic, and a moment of anguish is heartfelt; director Broccoli builds up to the scene so that it’s surprisingly moving.
The comedy and the second-act sentiment are a nice combination for an easy-going summertime show – and there’s more to come.