Bay's `Butterflies' serves up wacky family humor

Annapolis group's deft comic touches shine in contemporary play

December 21, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

With Wendy MacLeod's first play, Apocalyptic Butterflies, Bay Theatre Company again demonstrates its skill at presenting offbeat comedies by contemporary playwrights.

This domestic comedy, which premiered in 1987, opens the day before Christmas Eve in Fryeburg, Maine, where Hank and Muriel Tater, young parents of a 7-week-old, yet-to-be-named baby girl, deal separately and vociferously with their individual stresses.

The couple are struggling financially and emotionally. Muriel feels burdened with caring for the baby and maintaining her meager home; Hank feels ignored by his wife and craves her attention.

Both have awakened to find their house surrounded by a gift of totem poles from Hank's father, a costly gift that reflects Hank's father's whimsical nature and removal from any understanding of the couple's practical needs.

Despite the obvious deficiency in choosing gifts, Hank's parents, Dick and Francine, try to help the couple deal with their difficulties by offering their own quirky insight into the give-and-take required in marriage.

First-time Bay Theatre director Jennifer R. John has assembled a uniformly excellent cast to make the most of every comic line, and she moves the action along at a brisk pace.

In her director's note, John reminds us that, "it's not accidental that this play takes place at Christmas time ... as we follow the lives of two new, unprepared parents. The time of year reminds us to take stock of what is important in our lives and to rejoice in the blessings we've been given -- to see beauty in the little things."

Rating high marks are off-stage artistic team members: stage manager Tupper Stevens, lighting designer Nicholas John, set designer Dave Buckler and costumer Janet Luby.

Most deserving of praise is technical assistant Cristin Bieretz, who artfully changes sets from Muriel's kitchen to a motel room to Francine's trailer home and back, seamlessly sliding walls while playing holiday tunes to become an enjoyable part of the show.

As Hank Tater, Actors' Equity member Brandon McCoy (remembered as Alan in Bay's Picnic last season) shows his versatility as he seemingly inhabits this mercurial, self-indulgent male who discounts the needs of his wife.

He angrily rants, releasing a rapid-fire string of expletives that almost become his hilarious anthem, while conveying his character's total lack of empathy for the feelings of wife, parents or girlfriend.

Making her first appearance at the Bay Theatre as Muriel, Kate Williams is capable of a giant stretch from a bored socialite in Titanic to overworked housewife and intimidated new mother in Apocalyptic Butterflies.

Williams convincingly inhabits the role and within it transforms her character from annoyed wife to enraged, betrayed spouse and back to a wife reinvested in the relationship. Interestingly, as Muriel discovers the scope of Hank's betrayal, she takes on her husband's coarse speech patterns.

Another excellent player debuting at Bay Theatre is Equity actor Faith Potts, who, perfectly cast as Francine, conveys her character's conventional values, warmth, affection for her family and wacky wisdom.

Steve Beall displays a deft comic touch as free-spirited retiree Dick, who lets his fanciful flights take wing while keeping one foot on the ground out of concern for his new granddaughter.

As Hank's romantic partner, Trudi, McKenzie Bowling conveys the right mix of loneliness, independence and worldly honesty her character requires.

Apocalyptic Butterflies is a zany comedy chronicling the lives of self-absorbed characters who find the needed Christmas miracle to rediscover their love for each other.

Be warned that much of the dialogue is punctuated by language that might offend some in the audience.

Apocalyptic Butterflies continues on weekends through Jan. 19, with Thursday evening performances next week and Jan. 10 and Jan. 17 at Bay Theatre's home in the West Garrett office building, 275 West St. in Annapolis.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and $17 for students. Call 410-268-1333 to order tickets.

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