Monday, Feb. 4, 2008

Three Viewngs: Exquisite Comedy from Kopper Bear

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s just three people talking. And they’re not even talking to each other. Somehow, three people delivering monologues in a studio theatre in Elm Grove can have an undefinable kind of compelling magic. If it’s the right three people performing the right three monologues, it's a lot more than just three people talking. Director Howard Bashinski manages impressive stage alchemy in Kopper Bear’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s comedy Three Viewings. In a brilliantly written script, Hatcher forms an entire world around a tiny American town as three distinct characters deal with three different angles of death.

The first character of the three is a funeral director named Emil, (Bran Faracy) who longs for a woman he frequently sees at funerals. Faracy renders an emotionally compelling nebbish as a man who can never seem to confront a woman about feelings he has for her. He repeats the whispering mantra of “I love you” to her when she is turned away from him. Faracy’s portrayal of unrequited love is compelling enough that we feel a genuine tension as he describes his lunch with her. When she asks him about love, it’s almost overwhelming.

The second character is a woman named Mac (Amy Geyser) who cheerfully opens by stating that she steals jewelry from corpses. She’s speaking about it like it’s any other professional job and in many ways it is. Mac’s skill is tested when she finds out about a certain relative who has recently passed away. Geyser casually dazzles in the role. The character, having moved away from civilization to live in Los Angeles, could read as a relatively flat, vain professional thief. Bearing a remarkable amount of sweetness, Geyser casts the character’s LA vanity in the light of a humble Midwestern pride of a job well done. The character’s vulnerable side is palpable. Beautifully precise in the way she carries herself, we see rings sparkling from every finger but one. When asked about her husband, she says she’s not married anymore. She says her husband never fixed the kitchen door. This is exquisitely executed, brilliantly written material.

The final character is a widow named Virginia (Elaine Wyler) who is dealing with the somewhat shocking affairs her late husband after his death. Wyler’s performance is brilliantly minimalist, letting the language of one of the monologue speak for itself in the most blatantly emotionally affecting piece in the show. Hatcher is a brilliant storyteller and that brilliance really shines through in this final monologue in the program. Wyler's shrewd perfomance closes one ofthe biggest surprizes of the theatre season thus far. Kopper Bear's latest is well worth the journey to Elm Grove.

Kopper Bear’s production of Three Viewings runs through February 17 at the Sunset Playhouse Studio Theatre. For more information, cal the Sunset Playhouse at 262-782-4430. Visit Kopper Bear online at: www.kopperbear.org

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