Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Encore! cast creates fun ‘Housewives’

Published in The News Tribune, January 19, 2007

When word spreads about “Angry House­wives,” there should be a surge of people crossing the Narrows to the little Encore! Theater in Gig Harbor. Sellouts are expected, so advance tickets are recommended.

This is one of the few truly grown-up shows the company has done in recent years, and it is among the edgiest. It might be shocking to some. Parental guidance is definitely suggested.

Born in Seattle 20-something years ago with the book by A.M. Collins and music and lyrics by Chad Henry, “Housewives” was a smash hit at Seattle’s Pioneer Square Theater, where it ran for more than four years before going to off-Broadway. Set in the early 1980s, it is the story of four women who decide to form a punk-rock band.

Bev (Teri Deshon) is a frustrated single mother trying to support her 15-year-old son, Tim (Grant Troyer), by selling Betty Jean Cosmetics. As the play opens, Bev – dressed in pink with ludicrous pink floral-patterned tights – is preparing for a Betty Jean house party.

While she is trying to get ready, her son is playing his guitar and screeching a song called “Hell School.” (It should be noted that Troyer can sing angelically, as he proves later in the show, but this song is an ear-splitting howl with what seems to be the sole purpose of driving his mother insane.)

Only three of the 30 women Bev has invited to her cosmetics party show up, and none of them has any money. They are Bev’s best friends: Jetta (Sharon Eason), a put-upon housewife whose pompous lawyer-husband threatens to “revoke privileges” if she compromises his image; Wendy (Kathy Davis-Hayfield), whose boyfriend Wallace (David Michalski) is obsessed with his boat and his hobby of laminating the fins of fish he has caught; and Carol (Terri Whitman), who has gained 35 pounds since her divorce and compulsively gobbles food.

Taking a clue from Tim, the women decide to enter a band competition at Lewd Fingers, a local punk-rock club. They call themselves The Angry Housewives, and they win the $2,000 prize with their song “Eat Your … Cornflakes.”

The costumes, the wigs, and the outlandish songs make for a wildly funny performance, but underneath all the hilarity there are layers of comedic insight into the human condition. Although slightly exaggerated, the relationship between Bev and her son, the drudgery of Jetta’s marriage, Carol’s hunger for food and romance, and Wallace’s blindness to Wendy’s needs all resonate with real life.

The actors throw themselves into their roles. Some of the singers might not make it past the first round on “America’s Got Talent” and some seem to be trying too hard, but that’s forgivable because of the absurd nature of their roles.

Eason is outstanding as Jetta. She seems not to be acting but to be living the life of a put-upon housewife. She resists playing the role of a punkster, but when she finally gets into it she does so with all her heart. And she’s an excellent singer, both on tender ballads and punk screechers.

David Jensen as the rough and charming club owner of Lewd Fingers also seems not to be acting. I suspect he’s very much like this wisecracking but sensitive character in his everyday life.

Troyer has been a standout child star but has a much more mature role. It’s quite a stretch for an eighth-grader, and he handles it with grace beyond his years.

Note: Davis-Taylor and Whitman as Wendy and Carol, respectively, alternate in these roles with Wendy Coville and Nancy Taylor.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 28
WHERE: Encore! Theater, 6615 38th Ave. N.W., Gig Harbor
TICKETS: $15 for adults and $11 for military, seniors and teens
INFORMATION: 253-858-2282

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