Recently I went to some awesome plays in the area. Here are my thoughts.
Mile Square Theatre’s “The Pavilion”
720 Monroe St., Hoboken. Thursdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Ends April 29. Tickets $30, $18 students/seniors. “Pay What You Will” on April 19. MileSquareTheatre.org.
Director Chris O’Connor, who originated the lead role 12 years ago, shows a deep understanding of the show’s characters and the play’s ability to build. Matthew Lawler, the Narrator, flips between well over 20 old classmates at the high school reunion where Peter (Greg Jackson) hopes to win back his teenage love Kari (Dena Tyler). His voices and body language keep most of the characters distinct. While he recycles many of his accents toward the end, his performance is impressive nonetheless. Jackson strikes the perfect balance between youthful optimism and adult hopelessness and is immediately relatable. While Tyler seems a bit distant at first, she grows into her character and ultimately brings an anchoring, human quality to the play. While Jackson makes you root hard for the would-be couple, Tyler makes another part of you urge the characters to move on from their lost opportunities and regrets. With a spare set and few well-handled props, emotion takes center stage for a moving performance.
J CITY Theater’s “The Memory of Water”
252 Ninth St., Jersey City. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Ends April 28. Tickets $20. JCITY.org. 1-(800) 838-3006.
Three sisters prepare for their mother’s funeral in Northern England, sharing their differing accounts of their childhood and dealing with the challenges of their grown lives – eldest sister Theresa (Rosalind Ashford) constantly bickers with her husband Frank (Stephen Gleason); youngest sister Catherine (Susan Slotoroff) is loud, dramatic and a bit out-of-touch with reality; middle sister Mary (Sandy Cockrell, who is also the play’s director) is hiding an old secret and is having an affair with a married man, Mike (Joseph Langham). Cockrell’s direction and Shelagh Stephenson’s smart script keep the characters from getting lost in the show’s complicated relationships and occasionally fast banter. You can almost hear Cockrell’s Mary process facts, weigh risks and choose her words in her naturally thoughtful performance which hooks the audience emotionally without a lot of tears, intense monologues or melodrama. Ashford sneaks up as a delightful comedic surprise and while Slotoroff’s Catherine ends up being too cartoonish to really relate to, her antics draw the loudest laughs. The entire cast, especially the ghost of their mother Vi (Eileen Gaughan) and Langham, does a pretty good job maintaining their accents throughout. The prop-heavy production’s intricate set is outstanding and feels sufficiently “lived in.”