Al Krier

Dan Brothers: The Critique Compendium Interview

Dan Brothers Picture

Dan has been involved in theater since 2003 with Burlington County Bridge Players production of The Complete History of America as Assistant Director.  Since then he has appeared in worked on the following productions:

At the Burlington County Bridge Players he assistant directed Arsenic and Old Lace. He acted in A Christmas Carol, Exit Date, and Don’t Dress For Dinner.

He acted in The Champagne Charlie Stakes at the Hanover Street Theater.

He acted in the following shows at Burlington Country Footlighters: The Nerd, Dangerous Liaisons, The Boys Next Door, Assassins, As Bees in Honey Drown, Rumors, Legally Blonde, And The Winner Is, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Foreigner, Rabbit Hole and The Fox on the Fairway.

He also produced Metamorphosis.

Mr. Brothers graciously consented to an interview on 7/7/17. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

 

Critique Compendium: In a recent interview, Al Krier expressed some pretty strong thoughts about you. He said, and I quote, “Dan is the best! I will share a stage with him anytime. He is very generous as an actor.” Do you agree?

Dan Brothers: Vice versa. Al’s a good friend. Playing opposite him is cake. I’m very comfortable working with him.

You have no choice but to raise your game around him. He’s one of that select few that do that. He’s that good. It’s a joy to work with him. Kudos.

In Glengarry Glen Ross we were both funny together. It gelled. Sometimes you know you got it. With that show we both knew we had it.

 

Critique Compendium: What was it like to perform in shows directed by your wife, Valerie Brothers?

Dan Brothers: It’s a good time. It’s fun, but different. She’s allowed to come down on me much more because I’m her husband. She comes down on me anyway. (Laughs.)

She’s a perfectionist. I’ve known her for 11 years. When she does a project she’s all in.

We have different ways of preparing. The clash can be fun and challenging at the same time.

She really takes care of a script. She does extensive preparation. Eight to 12 months out, she has something laid out.

The Nerd was the first show I auditioned for at Footlighters. I got the lead and at the first read through with the cast I learned that there’s a surprise ending regarding my character. That’s the first time I knew about the ending because I didn’t read the entire script before auditioning.  Pretty sad isn’t it.

I’m the very opposite of Valerie.

 

Critique Compendium: Your character in The Fox on the Fairway had quite an infatuation with Elizabeth Deal’s character. Did having your wife as the director influence your performance in any way?

Dan Brothers: Not in the slightest. Liz and I became good friends over the last few years. We got to know each other quite well during Rumors.

That’s one of the unseen things that happens in community theatre. Meeting people and making friends is the best part. It’s the best reward.

There was no uncomfortableness during that show.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve worked as an assistant director in the past. Have you ever considered directing yourself?

Dan Brothers: I’ve daydreamed about it. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. It could be a couple of years from now.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve also performed on stage with your wife, Valerie, most recently in Rumors. The two of you also played a married couple in Exit Date. What’s it like sharing the stage with your spouse?

Dan Brothers: That’s a good time. We met during The Nerd and would laugh and flirt quite a bit…we still do that.

 

Critique Compendium: In the scene where yours and Al Krier’s character made the bet in The Fox on the Fairway, how did you keep a straight face? Between his silly sweater and the tone of voice he used, that must’ve been difficult.

Dan Brothers: Good question. There’ve been so many moments like that. What happens for me is I get the laughs out of the way during rehearsal.

When it’s “game time” you’re conscious of the fact people paid to see the show. People should see us performing to the best of our abilities.

On stage, I’m more focused on staying in character. I find that more difficult that not laughing or giggling.

I’m actually more nervous about misspeaking a line or stuttering than laughing.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve performed with Mr. Krier regularly. You also played the male lead in his directorial debut, Rabbit Hole. Was it any different working with him as a director?

Dan Brothers: Yes. That show was extremely rewarding. Al’s a very laid-back individual and that was exactly how he directed. I was very grateful to be cast in that show.

People are familiar with me playing funny roles. I remember a compliment Brenda Kelly Bacon gave me after seeing Rabbit Hole, she said something to the effect: “When you first came out I expected to laugh but as the show went on I forgot I was watching you.” Those are the compliments that really hit home.

I love getting laughs, but if I can move people it’s that much more rewarding because it’s not something I normally do. I’ll always cherish the role for that reason.

 

Critique Compendium: In Rabbit Hole, you played a father struggling to cope with the loss of his four-year-old son. The scene of you watching the videos of him really moved me.  How did you condition yourself to get through that a show that emotionally demanding every night?

Dan Brothers: I take personal experiences. Not all our days are happy. Many years ago I lost someone very close to me. I resort to what it was like to lose her.

It’s got to be unbelievably devastating to lose a child. I’m not a parent, but I do know what loss is.

When you’re on stage you want to do the best you can. I drew on my personal experiences to drive it home.

In The Boys Next Door I played a boy abused by his father. My mother said there were a couple of times during the show there was silence instead of applause after a scene I was in and that in itself is the audience’s reaction to what they just witnessed. I learned in that show that silent audience is actually high praise.

It’s quite something to get that reaction.

 

Critique Compendium: Rumors featured an abundance of slapstick humor. You played a physically demanding role in that show. In fact, the character you played got hit by a door and even broke his nose. How did you prepare for it?

Dan Brothers: I drank lattes and sat on the couch.

To the kids who want to get into theatre: don’t prepare like Dan. I really don’t prepare. That should prove helpful for any future directors who might consider casting me.

You’ve got to listen to your director. Scott (Angehr) casts you because you earned it. Now you’ve got to prove it to him. You’ve got to prove him right.

Take the vase toss and “one more time” in the Fox on the Fairway. In “one more time” we reenacted the show in three minutes. It comes down to rehearsals.

I can be a real bitch when I’m rehearsing. During “one more time” there was a lot of bumping and dropping things. You just keep going even if there’s a mistake.

As far as the vase toss goes the vase never dropped. Liz (Deal) made a catch like Odell Beckham, Jr. one night, but the vase never dropped.

You rehearse the hell out of it and get it right.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Rachel Comenzo played a married couple in Rumors. What was it like playing opposite her?

Dan Brothers: She’s a delightful young woman. She’s great to work with. Rachel and I would actually find time alone to run lines and ideas about our characters together which really made our first scene together very strong and enjoyable. She’s great to play against.

With that show our characters didn’t go on stage until 45 minutes in. Backstage, we’d play games. Liz’s (Deal’s) character didn’t enter until late into the second act. We all had a blast. The show was a great time.

Critique Compendium: One of your strongest traits is your voice. You can do soothing baritone. You can also broadcast very well. Is that something you were born with or did you develop it?

Dan Brothers: My parents gave me my voice. I use it a lot. Some might say too much. It’s cool to have compliments on my voice.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Dan Brothers: Chicks. (Laughs)

Kevin Esmond and I went to high school together. The guy’s amazing. Holy Cross was doing a show of Anything Goes. Kevin rattled names of girls involved in the theatre. I decided to try out and got cast. It was amazing. There was tap and singing in the show. I never thought I’d do it.

I returned to South Jersey from Florida in 2006 and once again Kevin reached out to me to asst. direct Burlington County Bridge Players production of Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve been involved in community theatre since.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things interest you in playing a role?

Dan Brothers: Quite a bit. My roles have been very diverse. Howie (in Rabbit Hole) and Bingham (in The Fox on the Fairway) were very different. I’d have to say it has to be someone I can relate to in a pretty good way.

In Rabbit Hole, for instance, while I’m not a parent, I do know how to be a good husband. The character had a desire to seek affection elsewhere. That’s very foreign to me because of Valerie. Ultimately, he wanted to be with his wife. I know how to be a good man.

Valerie is greatest thing that happened to me. I’m crazy about this woman. I like bringing that into a character.

Rabbit Hole was very real and needed to be performed as such. I didn’t want to make fun of this character.

Rebekah (Masters) and I had a scene where we really laid into one another. We worked very hard with Al and Val to make sure we got it right. It really worked. That was my favorite scene in the show.

Quite frankly it’s hard to specify what turns me on to a particular role.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed so far?

Dan Brothers: I’d have to pick more than one.

Rick Stedman in The Nerd. I don’t toot my own horn very often, but there are times when you know you’ve got a character locked in and this was certainly one of those times.

Howie Corbett in Rabbit Hole is another one, for reasons I mentioned earlier.

Barry Klemper in Boys Next Door. He’s a great character. It wasn’t even the one I wanted in the show. But getting cast as Barry was wonderful learning experience. That’s where I learned drama can be as rewarding as making someone laugh. It was a good lesson.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Dan Brothers: I had a hard time with Henry Bingham (The Fox on the Fairway), but I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult. I find comedies easier than dramas.

I had to sing two lines in Legally Blonde which was actually quite nerve-wracking since I’m not musically gifted.

I would probably say Barry. It took me a while to learn. I didn’t get the part I auditioned for but I needed to get over it. The show dealt with some pretty tough issues in a direct way and also a lighthearted approach. It’s a beautifully written show and will always be grateful for being a part of it.

 

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Dan Brothers: Jack Nicholson. He was in my favorite movie, The Shining. Talk about natural ability! The guy just knows how to do it. He can convey so much without ever saying a word.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Dan Brothers: Nicholson. I would love to work with him. It would be very intimidating but very cool as well.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?

Dan Brothers: Golf. Val loves it. She has cats. I have golf. It works beautifully.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Dan Brothers: It’s pretty easy for me. I’ll separate work from theatre. I get in game mode for theatre.

These days I’m getting my lines down quicker. If you have lines down faster, it gives you more time to work on the role. I like playing with the role. When you’re in a show your wife is directing, you have to get your lines down quicker.

 

Critique Compendium: What adjective would best describe your theater career?

Dan Brothers: Rewarding. It’s all been rewarding.

 

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Alan Krier: The Critique Compendium Interview

Alan Krier Head shotAlan has been performing in and around the Philly/South Jersey area for over 25 years. He has been married to his wonderful wife Donna for 30 years as of May of this year and has three talented children, Lindsey, A.J., and Lisa, who also perform. He was last seen on the BCF 2nd stage in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Clybourne Park. Other BCF appearances include The Fox On The Fairway (Dickie Bell), The Who’s Tommy (Uncle Ernie), How To Succeed…(Twimble/Womper), Glengarry Glen Ross (George Arronow), Little Shop of Horrors (Mushnik), The Foreigner (Charlie Baker), Assassins (Hinckley), and Urinetown (Lockstock). Other area appearances include You Can’t Take It With You (Paul Sycamore), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Pseudolus), and The Full Monty (Dave Bukatinsky) at the Ritz Theatre; also Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Pharaoh) and Children of Eden (Father) with McMagical Productions.

Mr. Krier kindly agreed to share thoughts on his craft. We conducted the following interview via email 7/2/17 – 7/3/17.

Critique Compendium: After seeing you wear those sweaters in The Fox on the Fairway, I have to ask the question readers are dying to know: did the title really refer to Bailey Shaw’s character?

Al Krier: Well, I don’t think anyone would ever mistake me for a fox so I would say, “Yes.” The incredibly talented and lovely Bailey Shaw is the fox to whom the title refers.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve done serious drama (Glengarry, Glen Ross) as well as farces (The Fox on the Fairway). In Clybourne Park you played both a serious role and the comic relief. Are there differences in how you prepare for dramatic versus comedic roles?

Al Krier: In a dramatic role I typically look at the script and the situation and try to determine how I would react if the events of the story were actually happening to me. I try to think of the character’s back story to help give it some depth.

When it comes to comedy I will do just about anything to get a laugh. I also look to some of my comic heroes such as John Belushi and John Candy. I’m not ashamed to say I steal from them whenever I can.

 

Critique Compendium: You’ve also performed in musicals such as Tommy and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Those shows were quite a departure from your other work. Why did you decide to perform in them?

Al Krier: I’ve been doing musicals since the mid ‘90s. Tommy is the definitive rock opera and I’ve been listening to it since the early ‘70s and I saw the movie in the theatre when it came out in 1975 so I’ve always been a fan. To get a chance to be a part of it and sing those songs with a live band was just awesome.

How To Succeed… is one of those quintessential musicals that I had on my bucket list. I don’t think there is a better closing number in musical theatre than “Brotherhood of Man.”

 

Critique Compendium: Your son A. J. and your daughter Lindsey also perform. Did they learn the craft from you?

Al Krier: I would love to say that I taught them everything they know but they are both uniquely talented in their own right.

Lindsey has been involved in the performing arts since she was 3-4 years old and while I would say that my involvement in theatre may have influenced her, I think she would have gone that route anyway. She has done some incredible work. My favorites are Natalie in Next to Normal (brought tears to my eyes) and Kate Monster in Avenue Q. She is currently rehearsing for Beauty and the Beast at the Ritz Theatre.

A.J. got involved in theatre on his own when he went away to college. He auditioned for a show on a whim and has been acting since then. He has performed in dramas, comedies, and musicals. His senior capstone project was an amazing one man show called Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno. It was an incredible performance for which he won an award.

My youngest daughter, Lisa, has also been involved from a very young age – she’ll be a sophomore in high school this fall. She dances with The Next Stage Dance Company but has also been on stage at BCF as the young girl in Dracula. I got to share the stage with her in Scrooge: The Musical at the Ritz several years ago.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Lindsey both performed in Tommy at Burlington County Footlighters. What was it like sharing the stage with your daughter?

Al Krier: I was very proud to share the stage in Tommy, especially since she also choreographed it. We’ve done a few shows together but we really haven’t had any scenes together. It’s always fun to work with family.

 

Critique Compendium: You selected David Lindsey-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Rabbit Hole for your directorial debut. What interested you in that project?

Al Krier: Rabbit Hole was the first show my son did at college. When we drove up to his school to see the show, first we were blown away at his acting. Then I thought that the play itself was outstanding and would be a perfect fit for the BCF stage. I decided right then that would be the first show I direct.

 

Critique Compendium: Do you plan on directing again?

Al Krier: I would like to direct again. There is a one act play I would like to put on The 2nd Stage and I have a few ideas for the main stage but nothing scheduled yet.

 

Critique Compendium: You and Dan Brothers have worked together on several projects. The two of you have fantastic chemistry as both a dramatic and comedy duo. What’s it like working with him?

Al Krier: Dan is the best! I will share a stage with him anytime. He is very generous as an actor and we are always able to bounce ideas off one another. I can’t say why it works but it does and I’m just very happy that it does.

 

Critique Compendium: What first interested you in the performing arts?

Al Krier: One of the first plays I ever saw was when my brother was in a high school performance of Heaven Can Wait. I was just enamored with the entire experience and could not wait for my chance to try it.

My parents always took us to see movie musicals and I distinctly remember seeing Oliver at the movies. My parents bought the soundtrack album and I used to listen to it all the time.

Sometime in the late 70s they took us to see A Chorus Line at the Forrest Theatre in Philly. Just a great experience. I just always loved watching live performances including rock concerts. That’s pretty much all I did in the 80’s – went to concerts and got married. But I digress, movie musicals, my brother’s show, A Chorus Line, rock concerts.

 

Critique Compendium: What types of things make you want to play a role?

Al Krier: There are roles that I want to play because they are a perfect fit for me and then there are roles that are a challenge. I enjoy both because the ones for which I am perfect, I can go on stage and feel very confident. The roles that are a challenge make me feel accomplished if I am successful at performing them.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s been you’re favorite role that you’ve performed?

Al Krier: Dave Bukatinsky in The Full Monty at The Ritz Theatre. Just an incredible experience from the show itself to the cast & crew and the audience reaction. If you know the show it is about a bunch of out-of-work guys trying to make some money by stripping. In real life I had just been laid off from my job that I had for 23 years so that part of it was completely relatable. I love the music in the show and we had just a perfect group of guys.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?

Al Krier: I always wanted to play Pseodolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. I got my chance to do that at The Ritz and I just don’t think it was my best performance. I was full of nerves every night before the show and that doesn’t happen to me very often. My comedic instincts just didn’t seem to gel with the part. I can’t say why – it was just one of those things.

 

Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage.

Al Krier: Going back to The Full Monty, one particular night let’s just say there was a lighting miscue at a very important part of the show. We performed that show over 20 times with close to sold out shows every time, yet it seems that no matter who I meet that says they saw that show, claims they were there the night of the lighting mishap.

 

Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?

Al Krier: There are so many but DeNiro and Pacino are probably the most influential. I’ve just enjoyed watching them in so many films it’s hard not to be influenced. John Candy has also been an inspiration just for his natural comedic delivery – gone way too soon.

 

Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?

Al Krier: Again, too many. DeNiro would be up there. Also, Spencer Tracy. His delivery of lines was just so natural. Watch him in Inherit the Wind. One of my all-time favorites.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage?

Al Krier: When I’m not on stage I wonder why I’m not on stage. Just kidding. In real life I’m a technical instructor. I teach technicians how to fix copiers. Everything from basic xerography to networking. Pretty boring stuff.

As far as hobbies I just started getting back into one of my childhood hobbies of building and flying model rockets. It’s been and on again off again hobby that I really enjoy. I also enjoy golf but I don’t get to play nearly enough and I really suck at it.

 

Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with the demands of performing in community theater productions?

Al Krier: Since my entire family is involved in theatre there is an understanding when it comes to the demands. We all know that there will be struggles, time commitments, scheduling conflicts, etc. There are no guidelines for balance, we just do our best. Most of the time it works, when it doesn’t we figure it out.

 

Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?

Al Krier: I bring Al Krier. Nobody else can say they are Al Krier.

Seriously, I can’t say what others don’t bring. Obviously I won’t name names but I’ve worked with some actors that simply struggled to deliver a line naturally. That may seem like a simple thing but I will practice a single line over and over again until I think it is coming out in a very natural, conversational way. I don’t know if I have always been successful at that, but I know that is always my goal.

 

Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?

Al Krier: I would hope they would say, “Remember that guy, in that show that time, yea, he was really good. So what are you ordering?” I would hope audiences remembered that they were entertained anytime they saw me on stage and that if they met me after the show I was gracious and humble. And that they didn’t avoid a show because they saw my name in the cast list.

 

Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?

Al Krier: Hopefully, they would say that I was someone that they could trust on stage and was completely committed to the role. And funny, heavy on the funny.

 

Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?

Al Krier: Do it! Don’t be afraid. There is nothing like being involved in a production and watching it go from the first read through to the final product. I’ve worked with a lot of young people and I’ve always found that the kids that are involved in the performing arts are always the ones that are exceling in school. The two seem to go hand in hand.

 

Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?

Al Krier: I’ll probably have some lunch. Oh you mean in life, theatre etc. Ok, gotcha. I don’t have anything in the pipeline right now. I started a new job in February so I’m still getting my bearings in that respect. I do have a few shows I am looking at for which I may audition but I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see how things go.

 

Clybourne Park at Burlington County Footlighters 2nd Stage

My most memorable moment as a theatre critic occurred several months ago at Burlington County Footlighters. During a production of The Fox on the Fairway, they used my name during the show. I’m sure glad my name didn’t come up during their 2nd Stage presentation of Clybourne Park. I much rather prefer having my golfing ability questioned in a public forum than getting associated with the themes in this story. In addition to a sense of relief, Footlighters treated me to a thought provoking and entertaining performance on June 16th.

Bruce Norris’ 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning drama also received the 2012 Tony Award for best play. The story addressed the topic of racism in America. The first act occurred in 1959 and the second fifty years later in 2009. With housing as the background, it explored the state of race relations in American society during two different time periods.

The playwright used an interesting technique. The same actors played different characters in acts one and two. All had a personal connection to either the neighborhood or the home that served as the play’s lone setting. It led to some unsettling discussions involving race. In the first act, white people fought the perceived encroachment by African Americans into the community. Over time the neighborhood demographic shifted becoming predominantly African American. Mr. Norris then added an interesting twist. In the second act, the African Americans fought to preserve the neighborhood’s historical heritage from white people’s interference.

Sensitive theatregoers should be forewarned: Mr. Norris’ show featured raw dialog. It made me feel uncomfortable during the second act when the characters discussed racial matters. During the first act I found the conversation just painful. The characters seemed very timid as though they struggled to understand one another, but just couldn’t find the right way to communicate their thoughts.  The discussion in the 2009 act deteriorated into anger and resentment. The racist jokes from both sides compounded the animosity.

Shows that require actors to play multiple characters challenge thespians. Most times that’s because their roles possess antithetical traits to one another. Clybourne Park took an original approach to this technique. Even though the cast played different characters, the roles they performed possessed the same values and beliefs. The difference showed in how they chose to express them.

Performers Sheldon Jackson and Nina Law played the African American couple in both scenes. In the first act, Ms. Law took on the role of an ostensibly obedient domestic servant. She always seemed hesitant or uncomfortable when speaking to her employer Bev (Kathy Harmer). Her open expressions of frustration and defiance towards her husband showed her true character. I credit Ms. Law for executing this challenging balancing act so well.

Mr. Jackson removed his hat and recited a series of “yes, ma’am”s when addressing his wife’s employer. While overtly polite, his mannerisms and speech reflected an underlying tension.

In the second act, they transitioned into more assertive people. Mr. Jackson physically confronted Steve (Fred Ezell) in response to his insulting his wife. Ms. Law crossed her arms and legs, pursed her lips while attending the meeting, thus expressing contempt through her mannerisms. Then she confronted Steve when he intimated his views on race.

Both Mr. Jackson and Ms. Law animated these challenging emotions brilliantly. Their counterparts as the white couple, Fred Ezell and Stevie Neale, did the same.

In the first act, Mr. Ezell looked and sounded the role of someone fighting to preserve his “progressive community.” He struggled when explaining how “different” people were, well, “different.” He held his hat in front of him as if metaphorically trying to conceal the character’s true inner feelings.

Stevie Neale turned in an extraordinary performance as a deaf woman; someone incapable of hearing the goings on around her. Ms. Neale’s manner of speaking demonstrated that she took the time to research and comprehend the role.

In the second act, the hat was gone and Mr. Ezell’s character let loose. While managing to repress and feign his feelings he eventually expressed his views with abandon; even telling a bigoted joke.

During this portion of the show Ms. Neale’s character couldn’t avoid hearing her husband’s views. While reserved at first, she also became enraged at the course of the conversation. As with the African American wife in the first act, she directed it at her husband.

In the first act, Kathy Harmer played an outstanding 1950s wife. She expressively pranced about the room discussing trite matters with her husband. Even with the stresses of an uncertain future following a horrible family tragedy, she exhibited a sense of optimism. In the second she became a dull lawyer.

Jonathan Edmonson ran the emotional gamut in Clybourne Park. This performer transitioned from a priest in the first act to an attorney in the second. (It’s hard to imagine any two roles more oppositional than these.) His calm reserve in response to Russ’ (Al Krier) insults gave way to impatience and aggravation in act two.  Later in the show he returned in the role of a somber, distraught man.

Al Krier always makes himself unique in his performances. Usually he does so through his costuming. While the bandana he wore in act two did present a rather unique look for him, he distinguished himself in the first act. In yet another example of why I’m glad my name didn’t come up the show, he instructed a priest (Jonathan Edmonson) to go “f–k himself.”

Mr. Krier turned in an extraordinary performance even by the standard of excellence I expect from him. In the first act, he played a father with anger issues over a family tragedy. He convincingly played someone trying to repress his emotions; especially, by the calm way he delivered the line in the preceding paragraph. Later in the scene he vented his rage at the community itself. In the second act, he refocused and became the show’s comic relief.

The play contained a range of dialog; some of it very tense and other portions rather comical. I didn’t care for the opening of both acts with banal discussions. The conversations droned on far too long for the effect the playwright wanted to achieve. I’d encourage audience members to be patient and endure them. Beyond that one shortcoming, I found the rest of the story well written.

As with a previous visit to Footlighters 2nd Stage, I had the opportunity to sit next to the director. (Blogging about community theatre has its perks.) Carla Ezell laughed heartily during the comedic lines. That impressed me. She’s worked on this show with the cast and crew for months. Familiar dialog still drawing that kind of reaction from her demonstrated her enthusiasm. That passion carried over into the performances.

Clybourne Park brought an uncomfortable part of the American experience to the stage. With that noted, a diverse audience attended the same performance I did. Not one attendee walked out. No one reacted in anger. It led me to believe that just maybe, should Mr. Norris add a third act covering the year 2059, the characters would behave with more civility towards one another. For now, theatre fans can attend the conflict laden version at Burlington County Footlighters’ 2nd stage through June 24th.

 

Theatre Review – Rabbit Hole at Burlington County Footlighters

It seemed appropriate that a man named Al Krier would make his directorial debut with David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole. The drama explored how two parents, a grandmother and aunt coped with the accidental death of a four year old child. In an interesting spin, it also showed this tragic event’s effect on the 17 year old boy who drove the car that hit him. The realistic performances the cast delivered made the audience criers.

Rebekah Masters (as Becca) and Dan Brothers (as Howie) turned in phenomenal performances as the grieving parents. They animated Lindsay-Abaire’s dialog in a way that made me feel like part of the conversation.

Ms. Masters brought great depth to a character who internalized her pain. This role allowed her to show the range of her skills. The performance began with her folding laundry and talking with her sister, Izzy. (Played by Corrine Hower-Greene.) Several minutes into the conversation she revealed with composure that they had belonged to her deceased son. She’d washed them before donating to charity.

Later in the show Ms. Masters displayed anger in response to Becca’s mother Nat’s (played by Susan Dewey) references to her own son’s passing. (Ms. Dewey’s character had a habit of telling Becca the worst things at the worst times.) Ms. Masters assertively snapped at her. She pointed out the difference between a 30 year old heroin addict hanging himself and a four year old child getting hit by a car. I thought that an interesting response from a character talking about her brother’s death.

Ms. Masters also showed vulnerability when cleaning out her son’s bedroom. She asked Nat (Susan Dewey), “Does it (the feeling of loss) ever go away?” Ms. Dewey showed great tenderness in her explanation of how the grief process changes over time.

The most intense scene in the show took place when Becca met with Jason, the boy who drove the car that killed her son. Max Farley played Jason on the night I attended. He took on arguably the most challenging role in the show. Performing with Ms. Masters, Mr. Farley kept his head down and expressed remorse without being consumed my guilt. That’s a difficult balance. He also showed calm and poise when Ms. Masters cried; the only occasion in the show when her character did.

Dan Brothers’ performance impressed me the most. He started out playing Howie as a relaxed, laid back man trying to coax his wife out of her grief. Then his character became emotional: really emotional. I liked his facial expressions as he watched a video tape of Howie and his son. He managed to weave those of a proud father with a grieving man very well.

Mr. Brothers has such a soothing bass voice that he’d make an exceptional nighttime disc jockey. That is until he yells; and boy did he yell in this show. I’ve been to numerous sporting events in Philadelphia. I’ve never heard yelling quite like his brand. I thought the building was going to rattle.

I also liked the way he could play an unhinged Howie and still bring himself down to a calm demeanor within minutes. He did this best in the scene where he discovered Becca erased the tape of Howie and his son.

In a story this somber, comic relief becomes the sine qua non of the show. Most of the humorous lines went to Becca’s sister, Izzy. (Played by Corine Hower-Greene.) I enjoyed the deadpan way she delivered the line, “we’ll have to do it again next year” after Izzy’s birthday party disintegrated into fighting. She did an entertaining job describing a bar fight that wasn’t really a bar fight in the beginning, as well. Because of the immense sadness in the show, had Ms. Hower-Greene not delivered the catharsis so well, this play would’ve been unwatchable.

Just about every performance I attend encounters some sort of technical difficulty. Much to Footlighter’s credit, this one didn’t. Al Krier and Bob Beaucheane did a great job with the sound. While Howie watched the video of him and his son, I could understand all the pre-recorded dialog without any trouble. It came through loud enough to hear and very clear.

While I’ve been “cautioned” not to comment on costuming, I’m going to do it, anyway. Everybody dressed in accordance with the way I imagined the characters would when I read the play. It helped me to suspend my disbelief that much more. I felt like that this was an average American family living in Yonkers.

My only criticism of the show involved the audience, of all things. No one applauded between scenes. After the show I heard someone tell a cast member that he “didn’t like the show, but liked the performances.” These responses probably stemmed from the uncomfortable subject matter in Rabbit Hole. It shows how intense the drama and how convincingly the actors performed when people thought it inappropriate to applaud.

No one likes to think about grief until they’re forced to. The play showed how different people cope with it in different ways, not always healthy ones. We all confront grief and loss in our lives. Watching the show got me thinking about some I’ve experienced. It led me start reexamining how I dealt with them. In spite of that, I still enjoyed the play. It brought out an unpleasant facet of the human experience. Isn’t that what great drama is supposed to do?

After the show I joked with Mr. Krier. I mentioned how he selected an “easy” play for his first outing in the director’s chair. He explained that the script and the great cast made it easy. The cast members with whom I spoke expressed their admiration for the dialog in Rabbit Hole. It came through in their performances.