The child puts a quarter into a pinball machine. The ball bounces around the space, flashing in one direction, swerving in another. It enters a hole and magically pops out on the other side. The ball slides all about this crazy maze we call “a game,” and ultimately ends up right back in the bottom for some other child to waste a quarter on and leave with nothing to show for it. This is the best way to describe “Snow Orchid” which just opened off-Broadway at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row.
The Miranda Theatre Company has just launched this revival the Joe Pintauro play centering around an Italian-American Brooklyn family of the 1960’s whose father is coming home from “the crazy house.” This tale of a family not knowing their boundaries or titles takes the audience on a not-so-welcomed roller coaster that features incest, manic depression, agoraphobia, murder, domestic violence, homosexuality, and every other end of the emotional gamut that can be found in the theatre. It explored these extremes so much so that the audience had no other choice but to giggle at these tragic moments on stage. Now, whether this was a byproduct of old, outlandish writing or less-than-perfect performances, a reviewer will never know.
There was a saving-grace to this production and that was the performances of Robert Cuccioli (whom you may recognize from his Tony-Nominated performance as the title role[s] in Jekyll & Hyde) and Stephen Plunkett, playing his son. The performances developed in this relationship between father and son were remarkable. Cuccioli has this incredible ability to change the temperature of a room with his eyes. He navigates this monster of a play with grace and skilled perfection. There is no finer actor for this role. Stephen Plunkett is captivating as his son, Sebbie. His disregard for his father’s authority creates a character that is strong in mind but weak in will. Watching him work on a stage is like watching someone blow glass; it is steady, careful, and with masterful skill.
The other performances in the show were negligible. The mother (Angelina Fiordellisi) left much to be desired, but still found moments of brilliance. This unconnected family of actors may perhaps be the glue that is missing from this frantic production.
The direction by Valentina Fratti does a great job of trying to work with this outdated, overly-dramatic script. Navigating this piece is a feat that everyone involved in the production should be proud of doing, however let this be cause and warning to never do it again. The design elements of the show were lacking in many aspects. The set was less-than-creative and appeared as if i could fall at any moment. The lighting design was also less-than-subtle. The costumes were about the only unnoticeably distracting element of the design.
The play mounts many difficult issues, and for it’s time was probably very important– But, the outdated nature of its drama makes you feel like a 40-year-old listening to 16-year-old girls talking about the winter dance. The play is a delightful attempt at unnecessary work. Maybe I’m not skilled enough in botany to understand a giant metaphor between an orchid and this family. Or maybe I’m not skilled enough in meteorology to realize the familial implications a snow storm brings. Or maybe it’s just a flat play. I do still recommend seeing it just to witness the beauty and skill that is in the acting between Robert Cuccioli and Stephen Plunkett. It’s worth the quarter for the pinball.
Snow Orchid by Joe Pintauro, Directed by by Valentina Fratti,
WITH Robert Cuccioli, Angelina Fiordellisi, Timothy Hassler, David McElwee, and Stephen Plunkett.
Ccenic design by Patrick Rizzotti, costume design by Brooke Cohen, lighting design by Travis McHale, sound design & original music by Quentin Chiappetta, fight direction by Joseph Travers, and prop design by Gillian Albinski.
Presented by the Miranda Theatre Company, through February 28th at the Lion Theatre at Theatre Row. Tickets can be found at Telecharge.com or by calling the box office at 212.714.2442.