Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Tell Me I'm Not Crazy
Williamstown Theatre Festival
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of Birds of North America and Fred's reviews of On the Exhale and The Children


Jane Kaczmarek, Mark Feuerstein, and Mark Blum
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
The world premiere of Tell Me I'm Not Crazy, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through August 3rd, works best through its effective, spot-on dramatic dialogue. Playwright Sharyn Rothstein's comic exchanges are not always so sharp. The four-character play features lighter and heavier sequences. As its conclusion approaches, this one hour and forty-five minute production grows more tense. An older and a younger couple stare at reality. There isn't room for superficialities.

Alexander Woodward's posh, inviting set ushers in theatergoers when, before the play begins, music of The Mamas and the Papas, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, and more fill The Nikos Stage. The accoutrements include a friendly and comfy sofa, nifty looking appliances in the kitchen, various chandeliers, and art on the walls, including photos of children, a still life painting, and a picture of a sailboat. It feels as if we're in a suburban home within an hour or so drive of New York City.

Sol (Mark Blum) enters and opens a black case which reveals a gun. Forced to retire at age 62, Sol has taken a step to protect himself. He fiddles with the Glock (a pistol of medium size) and happens to be pointing it at a door when in walks Diana (Jane Kaczmarek), his silver-haired wife. Seeing the handgun aimed directly at her head, she ducks immediately, hiding behind the couch. Soon enough, husband and wife are talking and she is astounded and astonished that he bought the weapon.

Before long, Nate (Mark Feuerstein) appears. A stay-at-home father taking care of two children and a wannabe artist, Nate likes the idea of having his parents care for the kids. Feuerstein, wearing jeans, sneakers, lived-in shirts, is suitably dressed by costumer Tilly Grimes. He, too, is aghast that Sol has the gun. Finally, Nate's wife Alisa (Nicole Villamil) comes on the scene. She wants to make money by working, and if this means traveling to different parts of the country inclusive of stay-overs far from home, so be it. After all, Nate isn't bringing in any cash and Nicole has her eyes on the fiscal prize. Her reaction to Sol's new possession is that she will not allow her kids to be in that house as long as the gun exists.

The first part of this play directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel is very much situation comedy. Neither the retirement duo nor the youthful twosome are satisfied with life. Everyone has issues of a sexual nature. Nobody is particularly pleased. Here is something that is original, fresh and wildly funny: Diana twice alludes to the new phone app she has—one which informs her just how many days have passed by without her feeling sexually fulfilled. Some of the other jokes and sight gags fashioned by playwright Rothstein however do not approach that level. Many are humorous—to a degree. Actor comic timing in this production is admirable.

On the other hand, the playwright is quite adept at demonstrating realistic conflict experienced by the Sol/Diana and Nate/Alisa pairings. The multi-generational thematic import is not lost. Rothstein's text rings true and the performers are at their best during more intense scenes. To the author's credit, she presents questions and quandaries early on, then revisits and explicates them later in the script. Thus, theatergoers might make educated guesses as to the storyline.

Jane Kaczmarek (television's Lois on "Malcolm in the Middle") is an authentic Diana, a schoolteacher. She has one of the best lines of the evening regarding her husband: "You're finally here and I've never been more alone." Near the end of the play, she throws herself a birthday party. Feuerstein, with numerous credits including television series such as "The West Wing" and "Once and Again," is multi-faceted in this role. His situation is complicated and the actor cuts a sympathetic Nate, a warm younger man who is, like everyone else, seeking and searching.

Tell Me I'm Not Crazy finds four people grappling with identity crises. The production is richest when Sharyn Rothstein's perceptive writing, during two person exchanges, locates characters who are desperately struggling for personal value and meaning.

Tell Me I'm Not Crazy, through August 3, 2019, at Williamstown Theatre Festival, 1000 Main St., Williamstown MA. For tickets, call 413-458-3253 or visit wtfestival.org.


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