Saturday, July 25, 2015

Laughing Wild by Christopher Durang/ Hub Theatre Company of Boston

Laughing Wild by Christopher Durang
Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Directed by Margaret Ann Brady

Review by Doug Holder

Have you ever had a significant encounter with someone at Market Basket-- in-- say, the frozen food section? I can't say that I have...but while fondling a yam—I had an idea for a poem, but I digress. In playwright Christopher Durang's play “ Laughing Wild,”presented by the Hub Theatre Company of Boston, at the Club Cafe in the South End of the city, something significant happens between two conflicted characters in the tuna fish aisle at Gristede's in New York City. The play ( set in the 1980s)  directed by former Somerville resident Margaret Ann Brady, uses this encounter between an unnamed man and woman as a conduit for an exploration of ontological questions like: why can't I find love? a job? meaningful work? spiritual fulfillment? etc... 

Lauren Elias who plays the unstable woman (the character has had several stints at the state mental hospital) assaults a neurotic male New Yorker as he ponders the existential question: “ What brand of tuna should I buy?” Elias has a set of pipes like Ethel Merman, and the comic flair of the manic Toti Fields. Her eyes are wide-open pools of angst, and fear-- as if some spectral presence revealed itself to her. I also focused on her mouth, a wide, nattering orifice, that chattered incessantly, as if we were viewing a Beckett play. There was a yin/yang thing going on in her performance-- a raging Prince Hamlet throwing barbs at a hypocritical society, the thinning of the ozone layer, Ronald Reagan, even Mother Teresa and her dreadful love of children. On the other side is a women seeking connection, and realizes her search for the silver lining is lost in the dark cloud banks.

Robert Orzalli, the object of the woman's attention, has a wonderful doughy and rubbery face, and shock of Harpo Marx curly hair, all of which help convey his zany embrace of New Age philosophy and the obligatory platitudes—while at the same time letting out burst of contempt about the search for beauty, relationships, a meaningless job, his life as a Gay man, and the list goes on.

Brady, who told me she once lived on Ibbetson Street in Somerville ( Where my Ibbetson Street Press was founded), and was part of the Mrs. Potato Head comedy/musical troupe with my next door neighbor on School St., Berklee professor Lucy Holstedt, has long been a fan of Durang—a master of satire, dark comedy, and all kinds of absurd drama. This is evident in the energy the players bring to the stage, and the audience “laughing wild” in their seats.

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