They say that the face of marriage in the United States is deranged. Beneath the many facets of long term relationships lurks some unforgettable moments and unforgivable deeds. Compound the love and marriage of a middle class family with teenage children and a setting for a play filled with laughter and conflict is born. Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Winners comedically captured the modern family and its struggle to cope.
Director Pamela Berlin was granted an outstanding cast by McCorkle Casting & Tom Rowan. Jason Simms’ set was imaginative and brought Maggie Bofill’s play to almost anyone’s living room, kitchen and bedroom. Berlin played to the strengths of each cast member and had the audience laughing and leaning in throughout the entire performance.
The play began with immediate conflict over the proper use of cooking utensils. Which, of course, is a very serious topic. Brian, (Grant Shaud) had engrossed himself in home cooking since the teetering job market had banned him to the stove rather than the suit packed pavement. Shaun was a pleasure to watch and his grasps at frustration while maintaining himself as a father were both relatable and moving.
Mabel, (Florencia Lozano) is Brian’s wife and now sole breadwinner of the household. Faced with added responsibility and a breakdown of marital communication, Lozano depicts a woman struggling to find her new footing and mutual understanding with her husband. Generally discontented and frantic, Lozano captures the dissatisfied wife very well.
Their son, Tommy (David Gelles) is battling his sixteen year old fog while gripping for adulthood and the meaning of responsibility. Gelles and his sister, Gabby (Arielle Goldman) have great chemistry together.
Gabby is hiding her ten ear old fall into reality with a quirkiness that was endearing—she quickly became my favorite character. Goldman’s ability to capture Gabby’s strange tint was well executed.
An old colleague of Brian’s, Bill (Scott Sowers) is a manager at a nearby Gap store. Bill’s mysterious choice to liken his managerial role to a civic duty made his intentions questionable. Sowers certainly made me grip my seat, but you’ll have to see the play to understand why.
Bill’s wife, Lilly (Polly Lee) is the touched by God employee of Saint Mary’s private school. In charge of the Christmas play, Lee endures Gabby’s very dark renditions of Christmas night with trained astonishment; super hero capes and all. Lee presents a holy conservative woman whose fabric is somewhat shaken by the Winners family.
And lastly, the comic relief to the otherwise laughter inducing play—the cat and dog. Of the two, my personal favorite was Marie Antoinette (Stephanie Hsu). Hsu truly conveyed every facial expression I would expect to see from a cat-human hybrid. A beatnik and ballerina cat was a perfect addition to the play.
Of the most cherished characters was Buck (Curran Connor). Connor played the household dog with a constant smile and big dog mannerisms—happiness, playfulness, eating garbage and the intense need to pee. Connor’s monologue in Act II has me looking at my own dog differently.
Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Gerry Goodstien