Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: New Jersey

In the Car with Blossom and Len
Unsteady, But Still Feisty at 84

Centenary Stage Company


Peter Levine, Maria Brodeur, Emily Jon Mitchell,
Kathleen M. Darcy, and Patricia Randell

What makes In the Car with Blossom and Len, currently in a world premiere production at Centenary Stage Company, so ingratiating and absorbing is that it is not, as a press release would have it, "a serious look at the issue of aging parents and the people who take care of them." While aging and disability (both physical and mental) are among the problems with which the Gold family must cope, In the Car depicts a crisis and turning point in the lives of a singular and quirky family. Fortunately, playwright Joan Fritz has heeded the legendary words of famed film producer Samuel Goldwyn, "if you want to send a message, use Western Union".

Lenny and Blossom Gold, both 84 years old, suffer from confusion and memory lapses, and are reliant on their devoted divorced and childless 50-year-old daughter Holly, largely to remind them of and provide transportation for their doctors' appointments. A once would-be author, Holly is self employed part-time as a "transcriber" for others. The Gold's 54-year-old married daughter Fern (get it, Blossom, Holly and Fern) is a smart lawyer with a daughter from her first marriage who is graduating from college. She always gives her parents and sister very little time or effort.

Lenny is a kind-hearted but cantankerous chemical engineer with no head for business and poor social skills, who was put out to pasture by DuPont in his early sixties. Wanting to remain vital, Lenny opened a lab which tested poultry feed for purity. Because of chicanery by a "silent partner" who swindled him, Len had to pour all his savings and resources into the business to keep it running. He eventually failed to even open his bills (and tax notices) because he could not face the fact that he could not afford to pay them. He even brought home to his garage toxic waste for which he could not afford to pay the disposal cost. The facts of his situation are unraveled by Fern after she is summoned to help by Holly.

Fern determines that Len and Blossom must sell their house and move into an assisted living facility. To this end, Fern arranges for Betty Anderson, a social worker from "Build-A-Bridge, an organization which provides services for seniors, to visit her parents. Betty means well, but she is officious and condescending. Len is having no part of what she has to offer, whether it be the delivery of pre-prepared meals, grocery shopping services, or a senior center. The spirit and determination that Len exhibits here is a prime example of the true to life depiction of the admirable (albeit, sometimes bull headed) human spirit that raises In the Car to its highest level:

I shop for my own groceries... (But Lenny, you get so tired bringing them up the stairs.)... I like to do it! I like to walk down the aisles and look at food! I like to pick out what kind of knockwurst or bread or ice cream I want that day. Is it the Ben & Jerry's or is it the Häagen-Dazs? Is it the Hebrew National or the Boar's Head? I make those decisions in the aisle. I said no.

All four of the members of the Gold family have issues to resolve, and they all maintain our interest. There is a great deal of humor in the play, and, largely, it derives from character and situation. However, there are occasions when author Joan Fritz and director Lynne Taylor-Corbett reach for easy, sitcom humor based on Blossom and Len's expanding disabilities. Only when such humor occurs without a nudge can it be funny. Also, the dénouement is too neat and clean, and not quite convincing.

Director Lynne Taylor-Corbett has ably kept matters moving at a good, smooth pace through the many scenes which are set in either one of three rooms in Lenny and Blossom's house, or in Holly's car. Taylor-Corbett is abetted by Bob Phillips' airy, bright set which spreads the three rooms across the wide stage, and manages to fill them with a satisfying impressive amount of realistic detail aided by the use of dozens and dozens of stage properties.

Peter Levine is both funny and poignant as Lenny. He seamlessly integrates Lenny's wide ranging moods and behaviors. Patricia Randell truly wins our hearts as Holly. While the text never fleshes out a convincing case for Holly's supposed psychological state, Randell wordlessly illustrates that Holly is coping with it in her final scene. Emily Jon Mitchell is exemplary as Blossom, a vain, wan clothes-loving woman who seems to have been an uninteresting wife for a brilliant husband whose talents did not include courtship. Kathleen M. Darcy is a solid and efficient Fern. Maria Brodeur accurately captures the vapid, annoying Susan Anderson.

In the Car with Blossom and Len is already a very entertaining, involving and affecting play. It is within reaching distance of becoming something special.

In the Car with Blossom and Len continues performances (Evenings: Thursday 7:30 PM/ Friday-Saturday 8 PM/ Matinees: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday 2 PM) through March 8, 2015 at the at Centenary Stage Company at the Sitnik Theatre in the Lackland Center on the campus of Centenary College, 400 Jefferson Avenue, Hackettstown, New Jersey 07840. Box Office: 908-9794297; online: www.centenarystageco.org.

In the Car with Blossom and Len by Joni Fritz; directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett

Cast
Holly Gold……………………………..Patricia Randell
Lenny Gold………………………………….Peter Levine
Blossom Gold………………………Emily Jon Mitchell
Fern Gold-Dumas…………………Kathleen M. Darcy
Susan Anderson……………………….Marie Brodeur


Photo: Bob Eberle


- Bob Rendell


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