Jun 08, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Baldwinsville Theatre Guild has struck gold with actresses Robin Bridenbecker and Aileen Kenneson as two love-starved middle-aged yentas – one a widow and one a three-time divorcee – in its current comedy “At First Sight,” running through June 18, at the Presbyterian Education Center.
Bridenbecker and Kenneson elicit laughs throughout with their giddy Yiddishisms and world-wise cynicisms. Their spot-on Lower East Side accents enrich their characters with a verisimilitude that really accentuates the situational humor.
Oh, yeah, the situation.
Bridenbecker’s Julia, a 51-year-old widow, dresses like a schlub but has lovely, long dark hair and a personality pleasant enough to have attracted the advances of a stranger at an out-of-town business convention. After an evening of casual kibitzing over drinks, nature took its course and now Julia is pregnant, leaving her two grown children disbelieving and dismayed.
After Julia reveals her delicate condition and lack of information about her shtuper, her ostentatiously stylish sister Verna steps in to play shamus.
With her flashing eyes, mischievous smile and zaftig tush, Kenneson’s Verna exudes enough chutzpah to nearly steal the show. Director Jon Barden, however, wisely stressed the sister tandem rather than let one or the other run away with it. The result is a well-balanced, swiftly paced and well-performed production full of punch lines and personality.
While Bridenbecker and Kenneson shine brightest in “At First Sight,” four other actors each contribute to the silly schmooze-fest.
As Julia’s nudnik son Curtis, Jordan Glaski draws guffaws with deftly timed one-liners and geeky props like a yellow stress ball, hand sanitizer and a brown paper bag. As daughter Fay, Chelsea Holtman’s best moments come when she’s anxiously hanging on every word of Julia’s and Verna’s salacious tales of the lovelorn.
The father of Julia’s love-child, Philip, played by Jon Wright, comes off initially as something of a klutz but turns out to be a mensch at heart. Ruth Ann Fulton portrays Senator Zelda Feldman, a self-absorbed conservative inexplicably obsessed with house flies, and Jay Burris ably spoofs the media with his quick turn as a nosy photographer.
In his program notes, Barden praised linguistics coach Cheryl Long along with his assistants Stephanie Long and Kim Marie Jakway for “making sure this play rings true.” Yes, they certainly fine-tuned those Jewish intonations, much to the audience’s delight.
The set design by Stephanie Long and Lisa Ryan also pleases the eye while well-representing the characters’ upper-middle-class tastes.
And while Bridenbecker and Kenneson rightly bask in the spotlight, Jon Barden – who unearthed Anne Pi ‘s script – deserves credit for his tenacious research. This budding playwright often writes about characters struggling in mid-life crises which, of course, are fertile fields for seductive shtick such as “At First Sight.”
“At First Sight” continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday June 10 and 11 and at 3 p.m. Sunday June 12 and Friday and Saturday June 17 and 18, at the Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St., in Baldwinsville. Admission costs $15 or $12 for students and $12 for seniors at the June 12 matinee only. Intermission dessert and hot beverage are included in the ticket price; 877-4183.