Richard Rundell as Emil
Britney Bunker as Mac
Toni Marie as Virginia
Mar 05-Mar 21, 2004
|Emil (Part I: Tell-Tale)|
|Mac (Part II: Thief Of Tears)|
|Virginia (Part III: Thirteen Things About Ed Carpolotti)|
|House Manager Coordinator|
|Light Board Operator|
|Set & Light Design|
|Sound Board Operator|
'Viewings' takes a different approach to funerals
- By Larae Malooly, Sun News
Whoever said funerals are boring either never attended the right ones or was too distracted by the guest of honor to see intrigue unfolding nearby.
Little do some mourners know that not only can funerals be darkly humorous, but also lurking among the calla lilies is unrequited love, thievery, and some dramatic plot twists.
There is nothing stiff (heh heh) about playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's take on funerals and the humanity they breed in "Three Viewings," running now through March 21 at the Black Box Theatre in the Downtown Mall.
Contrary to the minimalist setting of dismal blue curtains and furniture that screams Getz Funeral Home or Graham's Mortuary, the play's three monologues are intricately woven with wisdom, wit and torrid story lines
"It's so poetic and it's so beautiful," play director Ceil Herman said.
Equally enchanting is how one at a time, the three actors boldly entrance the audience in very different ways.
With animated eye contact and a commanding voice, Richard Rundell pulls us into his portrayal of Emil, the jovial yet distinguished funeral director secretly in love with a realtor who peddles her services during the services. Only at the end are we shocked to find out why a man as mature and confident as Emil wrestles with love struck awkwardness, which Rundell blends to perfection.
"The external superego-driven part of the character in conflict with both ego and id works very well for this character," he explained, only taking his performance to a higher level when tragedy makes things worse and tender heartache prevails fur unexpected reasons.
A sassy jewel thief begins part two very proud of her abilities to sneak rubies from the earlobes of Beverly Hills corpses. Mac's next target is her own deceased grandmother. who "looks like Stalin" during the viewing. As Mac, Britney Bunker shines the most at the end, when the audience finds out the disturbing reason why she'll never steal wedding rings, friendship rings or decoder rings. Her masterful depiction of Mac as a pouting child, coupled with the cool and collected high brow gal who plummeted into a life of crime demonstrates Bunker's range, not to mention her flawless pantomime of yanking rings from bony fingers and cleverly hiding them in a tightened mouth.
Toni Marie enhanced her own latent New York accent as Virginia the widow to make the final part a true finale. Marie energetically flits from Brooklyn accent to Irish, depending on the people hounding Virginia for the millions her husband owed them in life and now death/ A widow who should be drinking gin and tonics on a Florida beach, 'Gin is wonderfully animated for someone about to get whacked for debts she cannot pay
"I like the O'Henry quality of each story, that there is a lovely 90-degree turn in the last pages of each one that involves a revelation," Rundell said of the monologues.
And Virginia's plot twist is a doozy that makes us downright glad we attended three funeral parlors in one night.
Herman stuck closely to Hatcher's very specific script, save her use of lighting changes to emphasize shifts in time or mentality. "He said the lighting should be very simple," Herman said. "But I wanted to pull in moods and focus and tell the audience when you were m a different place in the mind and a different place physically"
That it did, while each actor deftly avoided the trap of succumbing to schtick while demonstrating how life prevails even when relatives, money and love have all dearly departed.
Viewings" finds three ways to lose in love
Black Box makes like a funeral parlor for production
- By Maggie Adkins, NMSU Round Up [ Thursday, March 4, 2004 ]
he Black Box Theatre production "Three Viewings," by Jeffrey Hatcher, proves that three monologues are better than one.
The play, directed by Ceil Herman, takes place in a small-town funeral parlor, during a period of about two months. Three characters, Emil, Mac and Virginia, take the stage alone and share their tales. Emil, played by Richard Rundell, is a funeral director who has excelled at hiding his feelings, even from those he loves.
Satisfying himself by mouthing "I love you" over and over to the back of Tessie the realtor's head, Emil marks time by telling the audience how many "I love you's" he's up to. By the time Emil reaches 17, some hard truths have come out, and he is left with nothing but a small reminder of what he never had.
Rundell read the play a few years ago and brought it to Herman to produce. "He wanted to be in it, and I wanted to do it," Herman said. She said they had to wait until the "stars" were lined up right.
Rundell said he was attracted to the format of the play, because each actor is alone on stage. "I look for one-person plays because I enjoy the idea of working up there alone," Rundell said. "It's like flying solo. While ollaboration can be great, there's more of a tightrope walk when you're alone. But it's not that it's dangerous, you are in total control."
Rundell also said one-person shows work well when little money is available for production costs. "There is little difference between what you will see here and what you would see in New York," he said of the production.
Herman said she appreciated the story of the play. "It's set in a funeral home, where there is so much humanity and wonderful wisdom," she said.
Mac (Britney Bunker) is a worldly, wise-talking thief who steals jewels from corpses. She returns to her hometown from Los Angeles after her grandma dies. Bunker's character is sexy and funny, but the audience meets the real Mac at the end of her monologue. "Comedy comes easier for me, but with Mac, there has to be this underlying seriousness. She's quick-witted, but there is something really dark she's hiding," Bunker said.
Virginia (Toni Marie) is an older widow, who finds that her husband left behind a very large debt. Marie said that she taps in to her past experience with a similar situation to help develop Virginia as a niave, joyful, hurt character. "I was nervous at first, but it is always easier to do with an audience. There's a symbiotic relationship where we feed off each other," Marie said.
Marie drew on her New York heritage to create the variety of accents Virginia uses, from Italian to Irish to harsh Bronx, all for comedic effect.
Rundell said the magic of the play is that the audience is sharing in the secret lives of the three characters, hearing things they can't tell anyone else. "I'm sharing my fantasy life with the audience, something that couldn't be shared with anyone that I care about or talk about," he said. "It's almost like eavesdropping."
The eavesdropping is made easier by a simple set, which is complemented by creative and subtle lighting.
"The lighting was supposed to be very simple and not change according to the stage directions. But we wanted to create different moods," Herman said.
Because the play is set in a funeral parlor, death is a central theme. Funerals fulfill multiple roles in the play, as they do in reality; they provide the characters with chances to heal, to let others know that they are loved and to tell lost loved ones goodbye. They bring each character closer to their ultimate truth, trying to find a better understanding of life and death, but mostly love.
The play ends on a exquisitely happy note. "The order of the monologues is absolutely right," Herman said. "I knew it couldn't end any other way. They are all survivors in their own way."
No seating plan has been posted.