It isn’t often that the star of a show is not an actor, but in the
Colony Theatre Company’s presentation of “Toys in the Attic,” the
buzz was all about the incredible set and props designed by Tom
Buderwitz, Chuck Olsen and crew.
Lillian Hellman’s semi-autobiographical tale sprawls across a
homey-looking front porch, and a living room, complete with piano.
It’s as if a small New Orleans house had fallen smack in the middle
of the stage.
In an age of reality shows, the cut-away front room wall and
window present a minor problem, as the actors are often asked to
pretend they’re yelling a conversation through the open window, with
one on the porch and the other inside the house. However, when they
are in the same room, the volume of their voices is the same as
before. Is director Jessica Kubzansky saying that Southerners always
Hellman’s story, set in the late 1950s, deals with two old-maid
sisters who’ve doted on their youngest brother their entire life. Now
that he’s married to a girl from a wealthy family, they feel empty
and unneeded. Imagine their surprise when he shows up with his bride,
claiming he’s rich.
Money has always eluded the family, and little brother has always
been a loser, so when he comes bearing gifts, they are thoroughly
confused and suspicious. Eventually, they discover the source of this
wealth, but by then, sordid events have insured that no one in their
family will ever enjoy it. Besides a preoccupation with money, there
is sexual and racial scandal, dirty politics, criminal activity and
broad hints of incestuous desires by one of the sisters toward little
brother. TV fans may confuse this with a regular evening of family
Caryn West portrays older sister Anna Berniers as a low-key,
somber woman, resigned to being alone, willing to accept spinsterhood
forever. On the other hand, Bonita Friedericy plays younger sister
Carrie much like Betty White played Sue Ann in the old “Mary Tyler
Moore Show.” A pain in the neck! This woman chatters constantly,
dramatizing everything, with a voice that makes a dentist’s drill
sound like a lullaby. To her credit, the second and third acts are
far more subdued, letting us see her true talent.
Charming and roughish, Donald Sage Mackay delivers a convincing
performance as brother Julian, an erstwhile wheeler-dealer in the
midst of a big financial venture, and Jane Longenecker is appealing
as his young wife who seems to be missing a couple of light bulbs,
but is wealthy enough that nobody cares.
Albertine Prine, the bride’s mother, is a cynical, aloof
matriarch, who sleeps with her black chauffeur and doesn’t care who
knows it, thereby single-handedly creating new images for “Driving
Miss Daisy.” Think Bette Davis and you get an idea of Nancy Linehan
Charles’ portrayal of this character.
Alex Morris as Henry is a great tightrope artist, walking a fine
line between Mrs. Prine’s driver and her lover, and Brad Bilanin
plays multiple roles. Curtis C plays Gus, the man who delivers the
ice and then wanders off stage, no doubt searching for the rest of
his last name.
It seems that Hellman was also searching for an anchor or sorts
when she wrote this play. The characters are joyless, and their
futures are, at best, drab, and at worst, dismal. The stated theme of
“be careful what you wish for,” proves that some authors can actually
end a sentence with a preposition, and that when you play with the
toys in the attic, the memories they bring might not always be