Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Impressions on a reading of Richard Kalinoski's FRONT ROOM

Next Act's space hosts a reading of a promising drama

By Russ Bickerstaff
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A sizable crowd showed-up at Next Act's space on South Water Street last night for a reading of a new drama by Richard Kalinoski--the author of Beast on the Moon. Just one day after the close of In Tandem Theatre's production of that show, Kalinoski presented a staged reading of Front Room--a drama about the life of a woman on faculty for a college theatre program somewhere in the US.


The reading had actress Deborah Clifton in the role of Professor Sandra Winsley. Seeing her in a reading was interesting . . . outside of elaborate costuming and make-up you see an actor's natural presence onstage and Clifton has a natural warmth about her that served the role well. 


Sandra's life is contrasted against her elderly mother Abby and a student of hers named Tyler. The reading had the good fortune to have Flora Coker reading for Abby. Coker has a brilliant sense of timing for the type of role she's playing here. . . someone who bears considerable wisdom, who seems to have lost much of any ability to express that wisdom…so it often comes across as scattered senility. Abby's characterization was easily Kalinoski's best work in the script. The overall plot seemed to be lacking something. The script seemed to echo with more than a few cliches, but the character of Abby--a hoarder who loved Jane Eyre seemed really sharp. 


The part of Tyler was read by Ryan Schabach. There's a charm about him that felt quite sharp and well-defined for the reading. Tyler is an Iraqi war veteran with a talent for acting who seems to want to succeed for all the right reasons. The relationship between Tyler and Sandra proceeds predictably, but with the right actors in the roles as seen here, it's an endearing experience. 


Kaylee Goodwin read for three different roles. I believe that's the first time I'd ever written that name…and I don't recall ever seeing an actor at a reading that I'd never specifically seen in a full production prior to a stage reading. It's particularly weird here as the bulk of what she'd done here was in the role of Alicia--a stage management student working on Sandra's production of The Glass Menagerie. So there's kind of a weird multiple-stage play within a play thing going on here, which would be weird enough in a full production, but it was kind of disorienting seeing an evidently talented actress play a self-conscious student stage manager. In what would hopefully be standard doubling for the actress in that role, Goodwin also played a charmingly idiosyncratic waitress at a diner. It was kind of a fun contrast between roles. 


Next Act's next fully-staged show will be Craig Wright's Grace--directed by David Cecsarini with a really impressive cast including Libby Amato, John Kishline, Rick Pendzich and Jonathan Wainwright. It runs April 4th-28th. For more information, visit Next Act online.




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