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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 50
Torchbearers a rare miss for Women Seeking theatre company
Arts & Entertainment
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Torchbearers a rare miss for Women Seeking theatre company

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Torchbearers
Richard Hugo House
Through December 18


The Torchbearers by George Kelly is a 1922 send-up of community theater. The kind of community envisioned in the play is the high-society kind, where people are acclaimed for the very worst kind of acting, simply for showing up and saying something on stage. Its clearly meant for the audience to mock those who valiantly ache to bring culture to our everyday lives and laugh at those who dont understand their limitations  similar to the horrid train-wrecks of auditions for American Idol when people cant really sing, but think they can. We laugh almost in spite of ourselves.

As presented here by Woman Seeki... a theater company, the cast individually has some wonderful actors, including Eleanor Moseley as Mrs. Pampinelli, the 'directress' who is trying to start a community theater. Moseley has great expression as she demonstrates the required gestures, and throws directions like 'more pacing' out to her cast (which to them means 'speed up' and is entirely mechanical). Director Christine Mosere plays up the old style of acting that basically was a dumb show of emotions, like frowning and lowering your head when sad and throwing your arms up in the air when happy.

The first act has the would-be performers meeting in a society womans home to rehearse as her husband unexpectedly comes home from out of town. We meet all the characters, including a sympathetic turn by Kate Szyperski as the society woman who has never acted before, but is told she is a marvelous replacement when another womans husband drops dead and the woman has to hold a funeral that day rather than act in a play. The best 'actors' are Rebecca Olson and Larry Albert, and Laurie Bialik, with an uncanny resemblance to Gracie Allen, plays a not-very-good script prompter but funny character.

The second act is supposed to be the night of the performance and the entire set is struck and reconstructed for a backstage spoof of doors getting stuck either open or closed, people tripping, lines being forgotten, etc. This staging means that the audience doesnt see what is happening 'on stage'  only behind the scenes. The audience has a new program passed around with information on this presentation of 'The Winged Arms of Treachery' by Kelly George, presented at the fictional Philadelphia Horticulture Club.

Though we are not actually going to see this play, we can see through a mesh wall to what looks (and sounds) like a well-received and terribly acted play. As dysfunctional as it gets backstage, the magic of theater appears to win over the Seamens Institute. However, the backstage antics we really see have not jelled in timing, so many of the jokes didnt work very well. The effect is rather too realistic and messy, as if we are seeing these real actors backstage, rather than the characters that are unsteady.

So, while there are individual moments and actors to enjoy, the whole has not found its footing. Having seen other excellent shows from this company, its a stumble. But everyone is entitled to a miss now and again, and we can look forward to their 2011 show 27 Rue de Fleurus, co-written by local talent Lisa Koch.

For more information, go to www.womanseeking.org or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/132682 or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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