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Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

Gender and Identity

Theater Review

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The Vast Difference, a 1993 comedy by playwright Jeff Daniels (best known for his acting roles), makes it to the stage at Village Church Arts courtesy of a new production by Windfall Theatre. Likable Windfall regular Thomas Rosenthal displays the sympathetic end of his comic range in the role of George Noonan, a man with five daughters whose wife wants him to have a vasectomy.

  George works as a flight attendant for a prominent, if fictitious, airline in the Midwest. George's position, stereotypically referred to as a woman's job, is the centerpiece for a witty exploration of the nebulous nature of gender and identity in the modern world. Jennifer LaPorte's grounded sense of direction in the role of George's wife serves as a clever counterpoint to Rosenthal's uncertainty.

  George's reluctance to get the operation aggravates the doctor scheduled to perform his operation, an attractive, young urologist played with precision by Amy Hansmann. In the course of his frequent trips to the doctor, he meets another reluctant patient, Chico Fernandez (Robert W.C. Kennedy). Kennedy is eminently charismatic in the role, fusing his own sense of humor around a charmingly affected Latin accent.

  George and Chico's initial conversation quickly turns to baseball-a recurring them throughout the play. The mesh of a batting cage adorns the wall, and the chairs are mobile pieces fashioned after seats at a baseball stadium. The irony in all of this is that George isn't particularly interested in baseball. The game ties him to memories of his father, an old barber with a passion for the Detroit Tigers, played as a classic, midcentury man's man by David Ferrie. The relationship between George and his father plays out with a surprising level of intricacy for a comedy that feels brisk and simple. The Vast Difference runs through Oct. 11.

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