Monday, December 13, 2010

Grounded - Walter Cronkite Is Dead - Play Review

Walter Cronkite Is Dead - The Ark at Signature Theatre - Arlington, VA (Greater Washington D.C.) - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written and Directed by Joe Calarco
Runs until Dec. 26th 2010

Two very different women are stuck in the airport and forced to share a table, and hilarity ensues. Many a sitcoms have used the same set up as Walter Cronkite Is Dead, or films for that matter, but of course, pairing opposites into a forced situation isn't new, and why not since it's always a fun set up? Joe Calarco cleverly takes this classic set up, inserts two very stereotypical women, and then slowly twists our original opinions of the women as they slowly reveal themselves to each other (and us). It's an obvious structure but it's done well, and actresses Sherri L. Edelen and Nancy Robinette, who Calarco tailored the show for, are a wonderful and comfortable presence on stage, making the most out of revealing the layers beneath the initial caricatures.

When a storm forces flights to stop, a prim and proper well dressed lady Margaret (Nancy Robinette) reluctantly shares the lone empty chair at her table to Patty (Sherri L. Edelen), a red state, fanny pack wearing mom who saves up all her money from 2 jobs to take her unappreciative daughter on their annual trip to beautiful places in Europe so that Patty can give her daughter culture, in the form of theatre like The Lion King.

There are lots of jokes at the expense of Patty's suburban lower-middle class lifestyle, and her ignorance to the world, but her attempt to learn and understand, gives Nancy their first moments of connection, as they each discover common grounds. For us, it lets us slowly get to see Patty as more than just a caricature from middle America.

Just as we think we have Margaret figured out, despite some oddities, we learn that the sophisticated lady has an interesting past, and some delicate nerves herself. Robinette's performance mannered performance made much more sense as Margaret's secrets are revealed and looking back, made perfect sense. Robinette has a lovely tone to her performance as she tries to hide Margaret's insecurities under her proper demeanor.

Calarco has built a well paced 90 minute play that manages to grow and become emotionally effective. His direction is simple but efficient and makes for an entertainingly lovely charming play. The sets by James Kronzer is wonderfully grande looking yet deceptively intimate and nicely frames this wonderfully grounded little play.

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