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Mr. Landing Takes A Fall

Theatre Review by Howard Miller

Adam LeFevre, Kathryn Rossetter, Sari Caine, and David Rigo.
Photo by Erik Carter

It is a tricky business to try to pull off an absurdist comedy like Sari Caine's often outlandish yet surprisingly touching and excellently acted Mr. Landing Takes A Fall, a production of the Slightly Altered States Theatre Company, now at The Flea.

The playwright has suggested the work was inspired by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and indeed there are a number of elements that bring to mind Edward Albee's play about a destructive marital relationship. There are two couples—an older one and a younger pair that come calling at their home one night. There is much consumption of alcohol. And there are interactions that bring to mind Albee's "games," the ones he called "Get the Guests" and "Hump the Hostess." But Ms. Caine not only takes the unfolding events to an absurd extreme, she also has a lot to say about a relationship that has endured for an eternity, one in which past and present and all of the good and all of the ill have merged into a singularity.

The play opens with Mrs. Landing (Kathryn Rossetter) standing center stage, dressed for cocktails and posing with a feather duster in one gloved hand and a cigarette holder in the other, looking like an actress about to say the opening line in a Noël Coward drawing room comedy. Mr. Landing (Adam LeFevre) is seated in a club chair, nattily dressed in a jacket and tie, though without any trousers. After some preliminary chitchat, Mrs. Landing announces that, by the way, she has decided to put the house on the market—just as someone knocks at the door.

Enter Cynthia (Ms. Caine) and Michael (David Rigo), a pair of newlyweds—or so it would seem by their attire. They were driving by, noticed the "for sale" sign, and decided to pop in for a look-see. Over the course of the 75-minute play, the visit turns into a rousing melee that includes, among other things, disrobing, arguing, shared confessions, dancing, groping, someone being forced into a refrigerator, and a flung box of Cheerios. You'd think that Cynthia and Michael would be a little taken aback by the goings-on, but they take it all in stride and willingly participate—at least, up to a point.

You do wonder after awhile if there is more going on than the free-for-all we see on the surface. But it is that turning point that changes everything and forces us to reconsider and question everything we've witnessed. Here, the connection to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? becomes much more significant, raising questions—the way Albee does in the minds of his audience—regarding the breaking of a long-established shared understanding between people whose lives are inexorably intertwined. In the end, the play succeeds in striking the necessary balance between the buffoonery and the underlying emotional core that is a hallmark of absurdist theater, and the talented cast, under Sherri Eden Barber's direction, does a splendid job bringing it to all to life.

Mr. Landing Takes A Fall
Through October 4
The Flea Theater, 41 White Street between Broadway & Church Streets
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: OvationTix