Review: THE DING DONGS Are Not Selling Avon

By: Aug. 15, 2023
Review: THE DING DONGS Are Not Selling Avon

Are you the type of person who only answers your phone if you recognize the caller i.d.? How do you respond to the doorbell when you’re not expecting a visitor? Suppose a fresh-faced young couple showed up at your door with an unusual request, specifically wanting to take a quick peek inside, claiming that it was their childhood home. Would you slam the door before the words were completely out of their mouths, inform them that you have Covid-19, or graciously step aside to let them enter?

You may never have given it any thought, and in today’s world, it is a highly unlikely scenario because we don’t trust each other very much. However, you may have a very different outlook after seeing The Ding Dongs at Gloucester Stage. This is the kind of play that requires the reviewer to be cagey so as not to spoil any of the surprises that are revealed in the twists and turns of Withers’ script. That being said, I can use some of the terms employed in the press release without giving anything away. Elements of power and intimidation combine in a comedic thriller resulting in a thought-provoking experience that will give you lots to talk about on your way home.

The audience is seated on all four sides of a nearly bare stage, imbuing the performance with additional intensity. Three of the four corners have stark white door frames and one corner has a closed white door leading to a room we never see. Bright lights (M. Berry, designer) belie the secrets and mystery that will be revealed, and Julian Crocamo’s sound design - doorbells, chiming clock, and the noise in one character’s head - underscore and accentuate the moments when they are heard. Costume design by Camilla Dely doesn’t raise any alarms, an example of not judging a book by its cover.

Withers’ dialogue is punchy and fast-paced, and this cast deftly handles the rhythm of their speeches like a well-conducted orchestra. The characters are well-drawn and, under Bradshaw’s intuitive direction, they are well-played. As the pair of strangers hoping to enter the house, Karl Gregory (Joe) and Erica Steinhagen (Natalie) present as sincere and deferential, albeit persistent to the point of annoying. They show their range at different moments that I can’t tell you about, but both authentically play comic and threatening sides of their characters.

Nael Nacer (Redelmo) stands in for us as the homeowner who placidly observes the strangers jabbering away on his stoop, trying to figure out what their story is and how to respond to them. He is wary, which is only natural, but he appears to be mild-mannered and semi-willing to be accommodating. Watching Nacer travel Redelmo’s emotional arc is the highlight of The Ding Dongs; his ability to tell the character’s story when he is not reciting any lines is masterful. As much as he shows us who Redelmo is, he still leaves us questioning what he will do (and what we would do) in the end. 

The play runs approximately 75 minutes and there are times when it feels like being on a runaway train. Threads of conversation zip by like shooting stars, only to be followed by something much more down to earth. Joe and Natalie are purveyors of distraction and misdirection and Redelmo is at their mercy. You have been forewarned.

Photo credit: Shawn G. Henry Photography (Karl Gregory, Erica Steinhagen, Nael Nacer)


Written by Brenda Withers, Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw; Costume Design, Camilla Dely; Lighting Design, M. Berry; Sound Design, Julian Crocamo; Production Stage Manager, Ally MacLean

CAST: Karl Gregory, Erica Steinhagen, Nael Nacer

Performances through August 27 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, MA; Box Office 978-288-4433 or


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