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Icebound

Theatre Review by Howard Miller


Olivia Killingsworth and Quinlan Corbett
Photo by Jeremy X. Halpern

A trio of sour middle-aged siblings gathers in the parlor of the family homestead in northern Maine like "carrion crows around a sick cow in a pasture," awaiting the death of their equally curmudgeonly mother and dreaming of getting hold of their inheritance, in the Metropolitan Playhouse's production of Owen Davis's 1923 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Icebound.

Before the old lady breathes her last, the eldest son Henry (Kelly King) is jumping all over Judge Bradford (Rob Skolits), the keeper of the will, to find out who is getting what and to make sure their youngest and ne'er-do-well brother, Ben (Quinlan Corbett), a fugitive from justice, has been cut out so that Henry and his sisters Sadie (Alyssa Simon) and Ella (Anne Bates) won't have to share a dime with him. The two sisters are also keen on dumping their distant cousin Jane (Olivia Killingsworth), who has been living in the house and serving as Mother's caregiver for many years.

But Mother has the last cackling laugh. She has left everything to Jane, with the proviso that she must commit herself to salvaging Ben, who has been hiding out to evade trial and probable imprisonment on charges of arson. Thereby hangs the tale, and the plot unfolds as Jane strives to fulfill her charge while holding the rest of the family at bay.

There are flashes of dark humor and even, surprisingly, of romantic comedy embedded in the work, but director Alex Roe (who is also responsible for the no-nonsense utilitarian set design) pretty much serves it up straight, as does the cast of experienced actors, so that the Chekhovian selfishness of the clan lies in sharp contrast to Jane's growing affection for Ben, whose "icebound" heart takes rather a longer time to thaw.

Ms. Killingsworth and Mr. Corbett play off nicely against one another, and as Henry's stepdaughter Nettie, Michelle Geisler brings a flirty charm to her performance as she sets herself up as a rival for Ben's affections. But despite its Pulitzer creds, Icebound is more to be appreciated as a precursor to such fare as Horton Foote's Dividing the Estate than to be enjoyed as a rediscovered lost gem.


Icebound
Through October 19
Metropolitan Playhouse, in the Cornelia Connelly Center at 220 East Fourth Street (easternmost door) between Avenues A & B in the East Village
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: www.metropolitanplayhouse.org


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