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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 15, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 28
Albee's Everything in the Garden a dark farce
Arts & Entertainment
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Albee's Everything in the Garden a dark farce

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Everything in the Garden
Theatre 9/12
Through July 31


Edward Albee, great American playwright, is best known for plays like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Zoo Story. Recent local productions have included The Lady From Dubuque, At Home at the Zoo, and Three Tall Women.

Albee has only written one comedy so far, and Theatre 9/12 is now presenting it: Everything in the Garden. It's unmistakably an Albee play, with bite and rampant sarcasm, but even though it's on the dark end of comedy, it's definitely a farce. Apparently, Giles Cooper, a prolific British writer of radio and television dramas, actually wrote the play first. After his untimely death from falling off a train (having consumed half a bottle of whiskey beforehand), Albee then reworked the play for an American audience.

The play is set in Jenny and Richard's living room in 1967 Westchester County, New York. (Farces are generally 'single set' plays.) Jenny (Kate Szyperski) and Richard (Eric Olson) are living a lifestyle in the country that includes a 'club' membership, a son at boarding school, and Jenny staying at home. But their income is not quite sufficient, so they fight about money all the time. Jenny wants a job, and Richard just can't allow that. (Folks, this is really how a lot of families felt about women working in the 1960s.)

Their story is narrated in an odd way by neighbor Jack (Michael Oaks). He's a terribly wealthy, easygoing fellow who likes them so much that he's ready to sign his fortune over to them if he dies, and decides to change his will without telling them.

But in the meantime, Jenny still really wants a way to more comfortably afford their lifestyle, and a strange Mrs. Toothe (Ruth McRee) arrives waving packets of money at Jenny, suggesting Jenny could work for her. After a while, it becomes clearer what Jenny's afternoons would be occupied with, and at first, Jenny throws Mrs. Toothe out the door. When she realizes how much money she could be making, and how nice it would be to have a greenhouse for her lovely garden, Jenny thinks again.

The first act ends with Richard having just found out about Jenny's moonlighting, and leaves you wondering just exactly where this play could go. Szyperski's even-tempered, mild-mannered Jenny seems to handle whatever comes along with such complete equanimity that even her husband's wrath doesn't seem to faze her. By the end of Act One, you can believe anything from Richard is going to kill her to Jenny's going to run her own business from the house!

Act Two introduces their son, Roger (Dylan Zucati), coming home from school for the summer, and three neighbor couples who make racist comments and make fun of people who don't share their lifestyle as Jenny throws a party. It's more fun not to spill the beans on exactly what happens next, though.

Directed by Charles Waxberg, the feeling of the play is totally period appropriate, with great costumes by Jocelyn Fowler, especially for Jenny. Szyperski and Olson are a great couple, with good chemistry and a feel for the '60s cultural references.

The play exemplifies and parodies the lengths that people will go to just to maintain the fa├žade of success. In this case, since it's a farce, that length is up to and including murder! (Hint, hint.) If you've ever longed to be able to smile during an Albee play, this is your chance.

For more information, go to www.theatre912.com or call 206-332-7908.

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