"All the Days” at Curtain Call Theater: A comedy without laughs
“All the Days,” a would-be comedy playing at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham offers a valuable lesson to actors. That is, read the script before you accept a role in a play.
This is said with only a little tongue in cheek.
Actually, it’s the only explanation for so many talented and experienced actors agreeing to appear in this feeble, poorly written play.
But there is a chance that the quips when read seem only acerbic rather than intentionally cruel. Which they are when spoken.
However, I don’t know how anyone could find lines like, “You can’t just stop being a Jew - ask Hitler,” funny?
Nonetheless, the cast’s talent is unquestionable as they serve the writing by creating some of the most disagreeable people to ever appear on stage.
What makes the evening so frustrating is, after spending the hour long first act creating a family unit that thrives on hostile insults and painful rejection, playwright Sharon Rothstein tries to make these rude people sympathetic.
Not only is it a futile gambit, it puts the audience in a place of cognitive dissonance.
Several years ago 38-year old Miranda had fled her family’s insensitive behavior. Too, she feared that staying with family that she could become a version of her mother to her son.
Played with sincerity, charm and maturity by Joanna Palladino, Miranda wins our sympathy and respect as a single mother suffering from years of being told she is inadequate.
Therefore, it’s really disappointing to see her greatest fear come true in the second act.
Her nasty treatment of her boyfriend Stew, who is both patient and sweet, played by Issac Newberry, is out of character and confusing. It certainly loses the empathy she earned in the first act.
The reverse happens with the portrayal of the mother, Ruth. I’ve watched Melissa Putterman Hoffman playing nice people and others not so nice for about 40 years. She’s aways been terrific.
However, capturing the negativity of Ruth so efficiently is a win-lose situation for the actress.
Her supposed wise cracks are so venemous, when the playwright eventually asks us to accept her as a lovable grandmother, it is impossible to accept.
The point is that both performers do fine work, but the material sabatoges the authenticity of the characters.
The same can be said of the men, especially Howard Shaffer, playing Ruth’s ex-husband, Del. Apparently he was a deadbeat dad and a poor husband.
Now, diagnosed with a serious illness he returns to reconcile with Ruth for what seems selfish reasons. Shaffer offers a good portrayal of a person no actor could make sympathetic.
Sorelle Brauth as Ruth’s sometimes curt, wisecracking sister, Mo. is trapped by having to work in a vacuum. The character appears to exist as simply a provider of background and insights into the family’s history.
Brauth’s greatest accomplishment is making Mo seem nicer than Ruth. It’s a low bar, but in performance it’s a relief.
John Sutton is nicely disarming as Baptiste, the accountant turned aging hippie. He plays what appears a normal man, except he seems to be actually attracted to Ruth.
Rounding out the cast is Miranda’s 13-year old son, Jarod, who is about to be bar mitzvahd. The playwright created a spoiled brat of the young man. Played by Eric Schnee, Jared is effectively irritating during his every appearance.
As for plot - it’s stuffed. There’s a religion change going from Judaism to Christianity. Also lurking is the mysterious death of David, the son and brother who was loved by all.
Despite their often described ailments, every senior in the play should live to 140. That is if their having a midlife crisis at their current age is any measure of life expectancy.
Just as seeing valued actors in this mess of a play is disappointing, the fact it was directed by Steve Fletcher, one of the area’s best directors is even more disheartening.
“All the Days” is overwhelmed by dysfunction. However, if you believe everyone is entitled to redemption, this might be a play for you.”
It continues through November 27. For tickets and schedule information go to curtaincalltheatre.com or call 518-877-7520.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.