The Players at the Barker Playhouse
The second production of Red Maple was produced by the Players at the Barker Playhouse in Providence Rhode Island in May of 2021. The live performances were captured with a three-camera setup and live streamed to the ticketed audience. The production was directed by Jeffery Sullivan and stage managed by Bonnie Sullivan.
L to R Mark Lima as John, Kathleen Oliverio as Karen, Joyce Leven as Stephanie and David Crossley as Robert
RED MAPLE REVIEWED
Reviewed by Tony Annicone
The New England premiere of “Red Maple” by David Bunce is the closing show of The Players 112th virtual show season. This show will be live streamed on May 21 and 22 at 7:30 PM, as well as on May 23 at 2PM. “Red Maple” is a comedy/drama that is full of secrets. Two couples are meeting for dinner together. The host couple is recently separated with the wife moving to a nearby hotel. The two of them, John and Karen, have pledged to tell no one. The guest couple, Robert and Stephanie, are threatening to leave the area for Florida and have secrets of their own. The husband has been in a car accident with some outlandish consequences. Into their midst comes a realtor, Theresa, seeking an apartment to sell. HoweverM,UST she has her own hidden secrets which they find out later in the show.
This well constructed play has witty dialogue which leaves you laughing merrily with some outlandish situations that must be seen to be believed. The play is set on the 14th floor in a Providence condo with the Hospital Trust Tower and the Superman Building on the backdrop, which is seen through the French Doors leading to a terrace. Director Jeff Sullivan keeps the pace of the show moving in constant motion all night long. There is a tender moment that moves you emotionally in the second act that is mixed into the comedy of mistaken secrets by one and all. Jeff picks five strong performers to play these roles and the small audience at the live presentation gave them a standing ovation on a job well done.
The show opens with a woman entering the condo who keeps hiding from the wife and husband each time they enter the scene. When caught she claims to be a realtor looking to eventually sell the condo. The couple convinces her that she’s mistaken and for her to leave the building. The wife gets dressed while the husband guzzles Scotch from the bottle. They argue comedically for several minutes, with Karen declaring that John has a Peter Pan syndrome of acting like a twelve-year-old and that’s why she left him. Or is it?
Stephanie enters the scene telling them Robert’s parking the car. He enters demanding a drink of Scotch and a comic argument about his drunk driving accident ensues. Then Robert confides a secret to John which of course is eventually spilled to everyone while each of them injures a hand during the proceedings. The first act ends with an accident occurring which stuns the audience. Mayhem greets us as the show continues with a surprise guest entering the scene. Secrets are spilled as the evening wears on, and the audience becomes enthralled by the expert interactions of these five performers.
Kathleen Oliverio commands the stage as Karen, who never swears to set a good example to her two children. Her one-liners are brilliantly delivered as she and her husband bicker back and forth about why she left the condo and moved out. Kathleen turns more dramatic in the second act at the confession scene with her husband. She moves the audience to laughter and tears at all the right moments. Her antics in the confrontation scene with the surprise guest, her meltdown and resolution of the events are marvelous to behold.
Mark Lima is every bit in control of the stage as John. His constant drinking, hiding the scotch bottle, arguing with his wife and friends as well as with the surprise guest are wonderfully performed. As John, he’s smoked dope with his children, much to Karen’s dismay, as well as disappointing her with his cavalier behavior during events of the past year.
David Crossley also shines as Robert who is a long time Humanities Professor. He and his wife have become empty nesters and he has been behaving peculiarly since a drunken car accident. Robert describes a Red Maple Tree as being absolutely beautiful on his way to work, but on the way home it looks like a deformed shell and a piece of crap. Is this how Robert feels about his life? David’s description of Robert’s epiphany on his life not only shakes up John but the two women, too. As they listen to him and try to find a solution, each of them makes a confession of their secrets.
Joyce Leven is gangbusters as Stephanie. She enters the scene swearing up a storm, being very assertive in her decision making during the evening and trying to be the practical person after a startling incident occurs. Joyce handles a surprise twist in the second act splendidly. Especially impressive is a fight scene in the show choreographed by Jay Forcello, a graduating Senior at URI.
Rounding out the show as the realtor is Stephanie Whipple. She is very funny at first while trying to hide from John and Karen. However, when she reenters the stage in Act 2, things take a dramatic turn as the quartet listens to her, argues with her, and commiserates with her. Stephanie’s British accent is splendid, and as the character must also deal with an annoying husband on the phone whereas the other two must deal with them onstage.
So, for a comedy that will also make you think of your life decisions along the way, be sure to catch “Red Maple” as The Players final show of their 112th season.
For tickets to view a filmed live performance call 401-273-0590 or www.playersri.org which runs May 21 to 23.
RED MAPLE (21 to 23 May)
The Players, 400 Benefit Street, Providence, RI
1(401)273-0590 or www.playersri.org