Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Theater Schmeater has got a knock-out production on its hands with “The Gingerbread House,” written by Mark Schultz and directed by Julia Griffin.

The play tells the story of “Stacey” and “Brian,” played respectively by Sara Coates and Tom Dewey, an all-American couple who decide to sacrifice everything, including their children, in order to achieve the elusive American dream: expensive cars, a fancy high rise penthouse in the city, an express ride up the corporate ladder, and exclusive membership into “The Club,” where they can hobnob and rub elbows with the crème de la crème of corporate execs.

The creative set design by Michael Mowery is composed of numerous screens on which video and animation are projected depicting primarily scenes of Brian and Stacey’s children, whom we never actually see, at play. The video design was by Douglas Staley and Mike Jones, and the animation was done by Shawn McConaghy.

In terms of the script, it is a powerful piece of writing that touches on many profound themes, including: child-trafficking and sexual abuse, corporate corruption, infidelity, greedy ambition, and to a certain extent, the psychological ramifications that a woman might feel after deciding to give up her children.

There are a few issues, however, with the first part of the script and the end. As for the beginning, it is hard to take the whole concept of selling one’s children seriously, which the script requires the audience to do. And given the recent scandals that have shaken both Penn State and the Catholic Church in recent years, it is an “iffy” subject for comedy. Plus, it just takes a little too long to get to the meat of the of play.

The ending sort of suffers from the same problem in that it doesn’t know when to end. There was a crescendo scene that occurred about 15-20 minutes before the show actually ended, which would have been a great place to stop, but it just kept going and going and going — sort of like the Energizer bunny. But these two issues aside, the script is, otherwise, quite powerful and complex.

In addition to “Stacey” and “Brian”, the other characters who round out the show are “Marco”, “Fran”, and “Collin”, played respectively by Daniel Christensen, Lori Lee Haener, and Raymond Williams. All in all, it is a strong cast of well-seasoned actors who deliver some powerful performances. Christensen was particularly good at portraying the slimy, two-timing, child broker, and Coates was quite engaging in her role as mother and wife.

Perhaps the smarmiest of the characters, however, was that of Brian. At first, Dewey comes across as a bit stiff and unrealistic in the first scene of the show, but he quickly becomes more and more believable as the manipulative side of his character begins to surface.

In short, this is one of the best shows that I’ve seen so far this year. I commend “The Schmee” on having the courage to produce such a provocative, substantive, and well-executed piece of theatre!

“The Gingerbread House” runs through April 20th at Theater Schmeater. For more info go to  Ph. 206-324-5801.

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