Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad
Is the play still funny and timely? Tyler Herman's stylized direction is heavy on poses and postures befitting a determinedly non-realistic work, but the characters work as funhouse reflections of recognizable people. As it happens, the most interesting and engaging character is largely non-verbal (and not human).
In 1959 Cuba, shortly after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, wealthy Madame Rosepettle (Robin Reck) arrives at the Hotel Libre with her entourage: her pathologically shy son (Tony Strowd), a surprisingly attractive pet piranha (Anna Lynch), two enormous carnivorous plants (musicians Steve Przybylski and Vaughn Irving), and a coffin containing the corpse of her husband. (See title.) The imperious Madame has definite ideas about things: primarily, she is maniacally devoted to her son, even though she can never get his name quite right. In her eyes, he is both brilliantly accomplished and unable to survive outside their suite.
The complications involve the son's budding friendship with Rosalie (Emery Erin), a babysitter for other guests in the hotel; Madame Rosepettle's pursuit of Commodore Roseabove (Manolo Santalla), who lives on a yacht in the harbor; and the slapstick antics of several bellboys who are also soldiers of the revolution.
Reck dominates her scenes with her high pompadour, skin-tight costumes, and hauteur; Strowd conveys both the endearing and off-putting sides of his character; Santalla gets to play both debonair and goofybut the most captivating characterization is Lynch as a wide-eyed, innocent creature (who, according to Madame Rosepettle, only eats Siamese kittens). The musicians also composed the score and add to the energy of the experience.
Katie Wertz has designed a wide-open set that encompasses the audience: walls of tropical hot turquoise and hot pink, elegant furniture, and a few surprises.
American Century Theater