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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Review- Crother Spyglass & The Resistible Rise of Fatlinda Paloka (Serenitas Media and Extrabold Productions)

The Fab Marquee review by David Stallings.

The one act is a very difficult medium of theater, much different from a full-length play. A one act is generally half an hour to forty-five minutes. The writer has to get in and out fast and must enter the piece knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished. There is no room to fill with subplots—similar to a short story, the piece must be single minded.

This week, I attended Serenitas Media and Extrabold Productions presentation of two one acts: Crother Spyglass by Timothy Dowd and The Resistible Rise of Fatlinda Paloka by Marcy Wallabout. In general, I prefer to go in order when describing productions and lead the reader on my journey from beginning to end. In this case, I would prefer to talk about the second half of the evening first.

Erin Leigh Schmoyer as Fatlinda
photo credit: Juan Cardenas

Marcy Wallabout has something very special on her hands with The Resistible Rise of Fatlinda Paloka. The piece is about seventy minutes and resembles a full-length one act more than a short one act. Ms. Wallabout would greatly benefit from developing this play further. The piece follows an Albanian woman—Fatlinda Paloka (Erin Leigh Schmoyer) as she encounters prejudice in her move to Georgia. What at first seems to be an angry Greek chorus of stuck up Georgians is developed into a more realistic couple in the characters of Jolene Earp (Siobhan Doherty) and Jimmy Earp (Nick Palladino). The twist is that Fatlinda has opened a pizza parlor in the small Georgian town and has addicted the citizens to her food. She slowly brings in cousins from her homeland and only when she has established herself firmly, does she decide to leave for another US town to infiltrate their community with her pizza. Of course she will leave the cousins behind with the pizza joint to forever plague the red neck town. She can only hope that her cousins are not affected by the laziness of the American culture as has already begun. The piece is told with fun and imagination in a Dr. Seuss style with rhyming couplets and fantastic imagery.

The first twenty-five minutes soar—pummeling the audience with high comedy that definitely garners a lot of laughter. The struggle of Fatlinda with the Earp couple is fantastic. The pizza DT’s, the county fair, the Hallmark scene, and the Jack Daniels porch scene between the Earps are all brilliant. But after a while, Ms. Wallabout leaves the story and goes on a tangent that only focuses on Jimmy Earp in an Irish bar. While Fatlinda’s endearing cousin Benny (Timothy McDonough) is present, the sidetrack into a possible Chinese prostitution rink at a laundromat and the effects of drought on Jack Daniels seem to be irrelevant to the marvelous bricks laid earlier. In the end, Fatlinda mentions the effects of Georgian culture on her family, and the audience wishes that the heart of the play had been more focused on the struggle she alludes to rather than the strange tangent that robbed the audience of a much anticipated climax. Truly, if Ms. Wallabout continues to work on the piece’s structure, presenting the story telling in a clearer “event-consequence” manner, she will have a gem on her hands.

Nick Palladino as Jimmy & Siobhan Doherty as Jolene
photo credit: Juan Cardenas

The acting is marvelous across the board in this play. In the role of Fatlinda, Erin Leigh Schmoyer shines with flawless comic timing and a hysterical accent that definitely mark her as a talent. But the true marvel is the connection between Siobhan Doherty and Nick Palladino as the Earps. They somehow manage to create real emotions and forge the definitions of a true couple while speaking in Seussian rhyme. They glowed together and seemed to truly bounce off each other in their scenes. Timothy McDonough is charming as sweet cousin Benny. And a head nod must be given to Nedra Gellegos as the cousin who is addicted to scratch off tickets. It would have been more interesting to see her become addicted rather than start with it already in progress. The same note goes for the town’s pizza addiction. But the acting of the circumstance was pitch perfect.

The first play of the evening, Crother Spyglass by Timothy Dowd follows an Ad man as he manipulates young people with dreams of artistry into doing reception work at an Ad firm. The man is Ray Crother (Brendan Wahlers), a Gulf War veteran who has been stuck in the same rat race for over ten years. His first victim is Adam (Timothy McDonough) a sweet kid with dreams of being a photographer who is not completely willing to play the game. Ray’s second victim is Christine (Erin Leigh Schmoyer), a brassy mailroom girl not willing to use her feminine charms as weapons.

Brendan Wahlers as Ray & Timothy McDonough as Adam
photo credit: Juan Cardenas

Dowd’s play, while somewhat reminiscent of Glengarry Glen Ross, does not seem fully developed. There is no true arch although the male characters are well defined. In the role of Ray Crother, Brendan Wahlers seems typecast. He fits the role so well with natural characterization, yet seems not to have the stagecraft to carry a leading role. Timothy McDonough is a breath of fresh air as the young Adam. He is easy to watch and actively makes choices. Erin Leigh Schmoyer who is so dazzling as Fatlinda seemed less comfortable in the role of Christine. The female in the piece did seem more of a stock character and assuredly is difficult to make unique.

Director Leah Bonvissuto used crisp lines and imaginative lighting to tell both stories. She is well aware of tone, comic timing, and other directing tricks to manipulate a moment or text. Her directing seemed like that of someone used to working on already established plays and lending her own voice to them. With new text however, she fell short in focusing her playwrights and making sure the stories were consistent and fluid. In her defense, a dramaturge on both pieces would have helped greatly.

Cat Fishers costumes were lovely—especially her conceptualization of the Albanian tribe. Elisa Giordano’s set must be given kudos for the photographed park from Crother Spyglass, which perfectly captured both the park and the passion for photography from the characters.

All in all, the evening was enjoyable as it was exciting to witness work with much possibility in its early stages.

Serenitas Media & Extrabold Production’s
Crother Spyglass & The Resistible Rise of Fatlinda Paloka
June 11-15, 2008
Theater for the New City

Tickets are $18 and are now available online at or by calling (212) 868-4444

Theater for the New City | 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets) | Manhattan.

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