By Phil Geoffrey Bond
Directed by Stephen Nachamie
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
Hearing the undisclosed “confessions” of nine peculiar residents from a small southern town, one may presume that the whole is the sum of its parts, and these offbeat characters provide a good representation of the core of the abstract community at hand in Anitola Parish. It is anchored on one end by gossip monger, quasi tour guide, JoBeth Maybelline, who owns the local nail salon. Her pastime may be described as extracting everyone’s secret business first hand or from a reliable liaison, and is completely happy remaining there among these “special people.” The other extremity, is held down or up, depending on how you look at it, by the reigning queen Doris Kitteridge. She was expelled from town to hide her unexpected pregnancy, then married Dr. Kitteridge and returned to Anitola to rule her unsophisticated subjects and drown her fear and loneliness with coffee cups of alcohol. The kooky characters that provide the link between these two motley matriarchs, each appear alone, to share their broken dreams and cynical stories.
The attempted southern gothic humor that lurks within each character’s story sporadically succeeds but more so then not, seems forced and unsettled, with no particular purpose in exposition or emotional investment. It merely floats on the surface never sinking deep enough to produce empathy. The only connective tissue is their failure to make their dreams come true, so they stay and survive by wallowing in despair. The low brow humor is not dark but bleak and gloomy, rather feigned and not balanced with enough irony. The monologues seem to carry a monotonous theme of delusions of grandeur, conquered by bitter reality which wears thin all too soon.
The cast assembled for “Small Town Confessions” penned by Phil Geoffrey Bond is stellar and all use their skilled craft to carve genuine characters and provide a glimpse of the ubiquitous population. Sharon McNight provides a staunch and controlled Doris Kitteridge, tastefully dressed in equal parts revenge and remorse. Her posture, expressions and delivery conceal her underlying vulnerability. Alice Ripley is afforded the arduous task of creating Juliet Monsignor, teetering on the brink of reality, as she prepares to marry the devil. She does this successfully with a dose of dire desperation, sultry submission always making honest and sincere choices. The debacle of Shelley Cooper may be the preeminent monologue, well written and self-contained. It is elevated to another level by the keen and conscientious execution of Daisy Eagan. The balanced blend of gleeful enthusiasm and honest naivety undeniably captures the hearts of the audience.