Living Room Theatre rings comedic bells at 'Lucy's Wedding'

Randolyn Zinn's play thrives in cozy Park McCullough Carriage Barn venue

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Living Room Theatre, now in its eighth season, continues to uphold its reputation of being "the little regional stage that could."

Co-founder and artistic director Randolyn Zinn has advocated for, and produced, high quality professional theater in the area's most intimate setting, the Park McCullough House carriage barn, and this summer is no different.

While some seasons LRT has tackled more than one play, this year, they are staying in-house, so to speak, by staging a single play, "Lucy's Wedding," written and directed by Zinn.

The show opened July 17 and will run through July 28 — meaning the time to catch this mid-summer night's dream is now. The play itself has been in the works for a few decades, according to Zinn, starting out as a 10-minute short, and over several iterations growing to its current full two acts.

The story is set in an American Midwest town in the early 1980s, before Google and cell phones, when private life was, well, still fairly private.

There, a family gathers for a wedding. Three sisters, Lucy (Julia Valen), Merle (Sarah Canter) and Doreen (Colleen O'Connor), their mother (Karen Trott), grandmother Gaga (Kirk Jackson), and the groom, Cal (Michael Broadhurst) and his brother Eliot (Will Gallacher) all pray, dream and scheme as they struggle for independence from the family matrix.

Without sacrificing fealty, they search for the authentic self within or without religion. Or sex. Or, as the second act examines, Christmas.

What they don't go without is laughter: both as playwright and director, Zinn is conscious of our need to laugh. The play is split into two acts: One takes place on Lucy's wedding day, and the other on Christmas Eve, five months later.

There is one intermission, and three set locations. As one of LRT's hallmarks, the moving of the audience between certain scenes within the carriage barn — or even outdoors, depending on the production — is always a delight for those in attendance.

Since this was Zinn's baby, her ethos could be seen in every actor movement, every well-timed punch line, every dream sequence, and every carnal allusion. And having rehearsed for a month both in New York and North Bennington, the cast (and crew) were ready to hit their marks.

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The three sisters all exuded their own style of sensuality throughout, all while keeping their eyes on the prize of humor.

Valen's Lucy maintained a very noticeable and smoldering tension with Gallacher's Eliot, the latter who nicely played a well forged arm's length to Lucy that added to the magnetism.

Canter's Merle was sassy, confident, and ultimately just the right amount of vulnerable, while O'Connor's Doreen nearly stole the show with her own understated yet unmistakably prurient desires and knack for producing laughs.

LRT veteran Broadhurst once again demonstrated that he is a master of physical comedy, deftly (quite literally at times) propelling himself as Cal through his scenes. It's no surprise he should have been linked with a great affection for Jackson's Gaga, who, in this reviewer's estimation was a masterfully satirical grande dame, carrying the audience for the play' s full two-plus hours.

Finally, Trott's Mom was funny, yet also classy, a direct reflection of the actor's long, successful career and Broadway background. While the play was not about Mom per se, Trott — who has been connected to this work for years, since it was just a 10-minute short — kept us wanting more from her commanding stage presence, anticipating her every move and utterance as a harbinger of her offspring's direction: well done, Madame!

LRT's lean and tight production was once more on display with fine contributions from project manager Rocky Friedman Vargas, lights and sound by Chase McCloud, special costumes by Emily White, special undergarments by Richard McPike, costume loans by Sherry Recinella, masks by Julia Toacaci, sewing by Anne Cooper, graphic design by Angus McCullough, and the always-versatile and resourceful actor Monique Vukovic assisting with rehearsals.

"Lucy's Wedding" is a fun play, most properly played in midsummer when we yearn for laughs and an affirming message, and a welcome story having to do with three generations of very strong women who must, in their own way and expressed seriously through a curtain of laughter, be strong for all those in their lives.

This play deserves a longer run, but sometime the logistics of rehearsing and producing can be tricky and only a certain range on the calendar fits. And for a world premiere. So be it.

In Homeric terms, Zinn has given birth to a story that would make Penelope — one of the original stalwart women in world literature — very, very proud. So because of this play's brief run, and with only a few days remaining to see it, get yourself to North Bennington for an evening that will give you much to think about — and also leave you feeling good about the women in our lives.

Telly Halkias is a member of the American Theatre Critics Assn. (ATCA). E-mail: tchalkias@aol.com, Twitter: @Telly Halkias


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