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Sets and volume hamper ‘Toys’

THEATER REVIEW

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

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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

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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

yell?

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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

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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

programming.

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

pleasant.


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