Last night, I saw the Western New York premiere of David Margulies’ “The Country House” presented by Road Less Traveled Productions.
“The Country House” is a character driven comedy/drama about a family matriarch, Anna Patterson, who is a stage actress of great renown. She has invited family and friends to visit her at her summer home in the Berkshire’s. Anna is in mourning for her daughter and is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. The gathering includes her college age grandchild, her hapless son, and a charismatic TV star. The situation gets volatile when her son-in-law, a sellout film director, shows up with his new fiancé, a magnificently radiant young actress.
. . .strong local professional theatre. . .careful casting is this production’s strength.
Act I is lightweight, pleasant fare with occasional amusing one-liners including theatrical inside jokes. Direction by Scott Behrend is smooth throughout, perhaps a bit too smooth. The lights go off, character’s inhibitions dissolve, but the requisite sexual tension doesn’t build, and so the end of the act is missing some wallop.
Things sizzle in the second act, however, with several skillfully acted fight scenes which are marred only by a wealth of furniture on an otherwise lovely set. In times of great passion, it must be frustrating for actors to find themselves stuck behind a large sofa or having to perform difficult maneuvers between chairs.
In any event, the altercation between the son and the son-in-law is dead on. Many kudos to Christian Brandjes and Peter Palmisano for masterfully unforgettable work! Equally strong is the confrontation between the mother and the son. Barbara Link LaRou, who does skillful work throughout the evening, packs a particularly powerful punch in this scene and Mr. Brandjes has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Careful casting is this production’s strength. Mr. Brandjes is both funny and wonderfully affecting as the son whose mother has marked him for failure. Ms. Link LaRou and Mr. Palmisano, both assets to any production, are in top form. Rounding out this solid cast are Renee Landrigan as the down to earth grandchild, Chris Kelly as the irresistible TV actor, and Kristen Tripp Kelley as the gorgeous fiancé.
The audience was very taken with the production and gave it a standing ovation. This is strong local professional theatre, and it’s a great opportunity to watch some of WNY’s finest actors give terrific performances in a smart, new play.
Running Time: 2 hours with one-10 minute intermission.
“The Country House” runs until May 21, 2017 and is presented at Road Less Traveled Theatre in Buffalo. For more information, click here.