Front Row Center – November 2021

Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Everything in the Garden

by Edward Albee

(adapted from the play by Giles Cooper)

Directed by Peggy Lord Chilton

 front row

The original play by Giles Cooper opened in London in 1962, and Albee wrote an American version a few years later as a tribute to his friend. It’s described as a black comedy, but it’s not funny at all. The play is a bleak commentary on the American Dream.

The scene is set in the living room and sunroom of the suburban house belonging to “Richard” and “Jenny”. They are desperately short of money, and most of their dialogue revolves about this ever-present problem. They can’t afford to send their daughter “Robin” (played by Maxanne Swanson) to summer camp, and they buy cheap cigarettes in order to save the coupons. Mark Donaldson has a difficult task making Richard believable, and does his best in the part. Mostly he yells his lines, but this means that later in the play there is little contrast to his earlier lines and it doesn’t mean much when he really has something to yell about. Lori Denise Grant is excellent as Jenny, who is willing to find a job in order to supplement their income. But Richard refuses to allow her to work. This might have seemed true in the 60’s, but is inexplicable today. Enter the presence of evil in the form of “Mrs. Toothe”. She runs a bordello, patronized by bored and wealthy men. It’s easy money, and Jenny soon succumbs to temptation. Donna Burroughs plays Mrs. Toothe with some skill in an almost military white suit—Dante would have placed her in one of the lower circles of hell. There is also a mysterious character “Jack” who wanders onto the stage, and speaks in asides to the audience. He is well played by Brian Mattes, who lets us know that Jack is eccentric and very wealthy.

In Act 2 we get to meet the neighbors, played jovially by Sally Jo Bartlett, Brana Corredor, Pamela Johnson, Douglas Pinkerton, Tom Nussbaum and Peter Luciano. The rest of the play is about the consequences of greed. Finally, at the end of the play we are left to wonder if Richard and Jenny will be arrested for murder – not exactly a happy ending. In Shaw’s play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” there is a critique of hypocrisy and the lack of opportunities for women. Here no one cares about anything except appearances and the danger of being found out. Possibly that sentiment is more true today than when Albee wrote it.

The pace was terrific, and all the cast did a great job with this disturbing play. Congratulations to Peggy Lord Chilton and all her hardworking team. Stage Manager was Ruth Varner-Smith and her Assistant was Shelley Betts. I should also mention the appropriate set design by Alan Bowers. Next up is “The Madres” by Stephanie Alison Walker which opens on November 5. It’s good to have LLT back and running hard!


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