BWW Reviews: Acting Far Surpasses Script in POSSUM DREAMS at None Too Fragile
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association & Cleveland Critics Circle)
Ed Falco, who teaches writing and literature in Virginia Tech's MFA program, may best be known for his being the uncle of Edie Falco, who played the role of Carmela Soprano on the Sopranos. He is also noted for his work with artists and actors through exploring the healing power of drama.
Falco's "Possum Dreams" is now getting its world's premiere at Akron's none too fragile theater.
Slightly resembling Edward Albee's multi-award winning "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," Falco examines the lives of two troubled alcoholics, who have flawed histories and are products of troubled families. In the case of 'Possum Dreams," the names are Walter and Jan Landing, not the famous George and Martha of "Virginia Woolf" fame.
Seemingly up-tight, conservative, Walter, who achieved minor fame for writing a trashy novel, which was thoroughly trashed by reviewers, but hit the best seller's list for two weeks, is an adjunct (part-time) English instructor at a no-reputation college. He is frustrated by his students' lack of sophistication and knowledge, the lack of respect for him by not only his students, but the other faculty members, and has not had sex for over 8 months with his wife. He expresses fascination for a transsexual (male to female) student. As we meet him, he is obviously agitated, sloshing down martinis and Scotch, and looking for a fight.
Jan, also an "alchie," who follows the sage given to her by her mother that, "Men will ask you to do terrible things. Do them!," edited the infamous novel. The mother of eighteen year-old twins, she is obsessive compulsive. She doesn't like to live in a world without a clear set of procedures and focus. She needs to have control. Supposedly knowing that the twins, who will soon be going to their high school prom will probably "get killed" in an auto accident that night, and will have sex, which will ruin their lives, she plans to limo them to the dance and then rent rooms for them and their dates, with a healthy supply of condoms, at a fancy bed and breakfast, so that she will know they are safe.
As the evening rolls on, we are exposed to illicit affairs, transsexuality, sex toys, swearing, panic, painting of the living room, tables being upended, decoration of living space with a possum pelt, and lots of drinking.
In contrast to the clear and powerfully developed existential "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "Possum Dreams" fails to give a clear picture of why these people are out to destroy each other. The language and situations are often forced, and the play screeches to a "cop out" unresolved conclusion.
Why should we care about these people? Why should we even bother to care what happens after the black lights indicate our experience with them is over. What was Falco trying to impart to the audience about people, life or consequences of our actions?
Yes, there are many, many laughs, especially on opening night when, what appeared to be a drunk gentleman, kept yelling out comments and advice to the actors.
Is this supposed to be a meaningless comedy, a black comedy or a tragedy? These forms all have purpose. What' s the purpose of this play?
In spite of being given absurdity to work with, both Andrew Narten and Leighann Niles DeLorenzo are superb in the development of these depraved people. They rant, harass and taunt with glee. They make palatable lemonade out of bad lemons. Without their fine sense of timing, mobile faces, creation of situations out of rambling lines, and the direction of Sean Derry, the entire evening would have been a disaster. They each present several powerful and hysterical monologues which are worth the price of admission, if you are willing to put up with the rest of it.
Capsule judgement: "Possum Dreams" is a poorly written and conceived script which gets a better than deserved production at none too fragile theater. While Andrew Narten and Leighann Niles DeLorenzo are excellent, the play, itself is not. Oh well, even none too fragile has to stage something that is less than outstanding every once in a while.
Possum Dreams" runs through June 28, 2014 at none too fragile theater which is located in Bricco's Restaurant, 1841 Merriman Road, Akron. Use the free valet parking, as car space is limited. For tickets call 330-671-4563 or go to http://www.nonetoofragile.com
The theatre's next production is "Ride," a dark comedy by Eric Lane.