Sunday, September 26, 2010

QNY Theater Review: Lost and Found

Posted by David

The Fringe Festival may technically be over, but I had the opportunity to attend a performance of Lost and Found, a new play by John Pollono, as part of the Fringe Encore series.

Lost and Found is a kitchen-sink family dramedy about an Italian-American family living in Boston and deeply embedded in the police community: the son is a cop, the daughter is dating a cop, and their deceased father was a cop.  The mother is a tough-as-nails police widow.  Life is very combative in the Broncato family household as familial obligations, pressures and expectations ricochet amongst the family members who all live tenuously under one roof.

Into this volatile mix comes an outsider who turns out to be not so "outside" afterall.  If this weren't enough, the new next-door neighbor has stumbled into the lives of the family as well.  Tensions mount and secrets are concealed, revealed, and brandished as weapons as each individual tries to find their footing in a family home that is now situated on emotionally tectonic plates.

The cast is led by Geraldine Librandi (Patty Leotardo in "The Sopranos") who is outstanding as Eva Broncato, the fierce matriarch of the family.  Her portrayal of a woman who tries to be made of steel but who is hollow inside is beautifully calibrated.  John Pollono, who is also the playwright, is equally excellent as the world-weary son, Tommy, yoked by obligation and desperate to carve out a life for himself.  He is also comically brilliant, deftly handling the dark humor in the script with a crackling timing and subtlety.  Not to be outdone is Dana Domenick as Marie, the ugly duckling daughter who is straining at the expectations that her small world has imposed on her.

Kudos must also go to Reiko Aylesworth ("24" and "Damages") as the next-door neighbor Betty.  Her performance constructs a poignant balance between elements of screwball comedy and the deeply layered characterization of a woman who has deferred her happiness in order to fulfill expectations.  Jon Krupp as Vincent, the not-so-strange stranger, also provides a strong performance, although there were a few times in his performance that I would have liked a bit more fire and less steadiness.

In supporting roles, Joey Gambetta is charmingly goofy as Marie's long-term boyfriend, and Bill Bochtrup ("NYPD Blue") provides fiesty comic moments as Vincent's partner.

While the play works hard to provide each of the main characters with fully satisfying dramatic arcs, the story sometimes strains at the seams because there is just so much going on.  Any of the many conflicts that are dramatized could easily be teased out into its own full length play.  Depite this, the expert direction by Andrew Block keeps the action from bogging down or becoming too frenetic and allows Pollono's finely drawn characters and crackerjack dialogue to powerfully draw the audience into the story.

Aiding in this is a superb production team.  Christa Kelly's excellent scenic design evokes a family both enveloped and suffocated by its extensive family history and struggling to find privacy in a society where everyone knows your business.  Countless family portraits stare from the slatted walls that provide little cover from the outside world.  The set is complemented by Tony Leopore's smart lighting design that smoothly defines place, focus and mood.  Anne Lommel's costumes complete the package, telling us subtly but clearly who these people are and where they come from.  There is no credit in the program, but whoever was in charge of the interstitial music also deserves commendation.

Lost and Found is a production of the LA-based Rogue Machine Theatre.  While this production only ran from September18-25 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, I certainly hope it is given additional life in future productions.  It deserves it.

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