Front Row Center

By Michael Warren

Wrong Turn at Lungfish
By Garry Marshall and Lowell Ganz
Directed by Peggy Lord Chilton

 

front-rowIf you were to read the script of this play, you would probably find it dark and distasteful. The scene is a hospital room somewhere in New York City, and “Peter Ravenswaal” is an old, blind, dying patient. He’s an ex-dean of a New York university, and is angry and frustrated at being ill and helpless.

Enter “Anita Merendino” as a volunteer reader – she’s a street person, not a great reader, and we wonder what she’s doing volunteering at the hospital. Well, we find out later that she looks for lonely dying men in order to get their money. Her boyfriend “Dominic De Caesar” is a thug who beats people up for a fee. It gets even more unpleasant when Anita attempts (to put it gently) sexual seduction on Peter while he’s asleep. Maybe evolution did take a wrong turn somewhere post-lungfish if this is what passes for comedy in New York.  

However, the director pulls off a small miracle in making this material both touching and entertaining. There are plenty of funny one-liners, and the actors do a great job in their respective roles. Kenneth Bridges is very convincing as the grouchy old patient. He is onstage for the entire play, and he gives a superb performance as the dying teacher and lover of books. He really seems to be blind, and he delivers his lines with pace and authority.

Tina Leonard is sweetly amoral as Anita, willing to do anything for love or money. She speaks with a genuine New York accent, and generally she comes across well as a dumb and ditsy girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Beryel Dorscht is suitably harried and bad-tempered as the overworked nurse, while Ken Yakiwchuk has a lot of fun playing nasty Dominic. With his sleeves rolled up to display his tattoos, he’s on the verge of out-of-control anger throughout the second Act. He’ll do you a favor and beat up anyone you want, for free if he likes you.

There are some serious moments in the play, when Peter muses on the mystery of life (and death). And at the end Anita and Peter read some lines from T.S. Eliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The lines come across clearly and, as Anita’s voice breaks, the poem creates a poignant ending to the play. Peggy Lord Chilton did a good job in bringing out those more thoughtful moments, and the cast performed with pace and much humor.

The audience certainly enjoyed the play, and the actors received well-earned applause at the curtain call. Beth Leitch was Stage Manager and the play ran smoothly on- and off-stage. Congratulations to cast and crew for bringing the lungfish out of the water, and giving us a tender and enjoyable play.

Next up is the classic drama The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams, directed by Dave McIntosh. It opens on February 20and runs through March 1.

 

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