Aisle on the Isle: "Everything in the Garden"
A man with the mildly comical name of Skeeter Boxberger is one of the finest dramatic actors around. Period.
And you can see him, right now, in Farmingdale.
I have seen Sir Derek Jacobi in the one man tour de force, "Breaking the Code;" seen Christopher Plummer (an actor the New York Times called "the most accomplished classical actor in North America") in "Hamlet." Both on Broadway.
It is not hyperbole to say that Mr. Boxberger's performance in the Arena Players' production of Edward Albee's "Everything in the Garden" is comparable to the best.
Supported by an outstanding team of players throughout the production and paired with the talented Christine Ann Sullivan as his wife, Boxberger brings subtlety and nuance to the complex role of Richard, a suburban husband in 1960s America.
Earnest, intelligent and hard working, Richard is well aware that his honest but modest income is not quite sufficient to meet the monetary and social desires of his wife. Yet he steadfastly refuses to "allow" his wife Jenny to work. Jenny is bored and restless with their only son away at school, and is eager to supplant the family income, but Richard will have none of it. How she, and ultimately they as a couple, choose to resolve this issue is the substantive basis for the entire piece.
Albee's plays can be challenging to the point of exhaustion for the audience, saturated, as they so often are, with tension, conflict and social chaos. From "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," written in 1961 and a current Broadway revival, to the controversial 2002 production, "The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?," his work resonates with symbolism, sarcasm and satire.
In "Everything in the Garden," Albee toys with the juxtaposition of real values against those stated or implied by his characters and society, both his and our own. He examines this juxtaposition in "Garden" through the prism of a marriage, and the relationship the people in that marriage have with their friends, their pseudo-friends, their son and each other. Unanswered questions about friendship, money, marriage and morals form and fall from the stage to the audience like bits of shattered light. It is not an easy play to stage, to perform, to watch.
However, under the experienced and deft hand of director/producer Fred DeFeis, the Arena Players Repertory Company does a truly admirable job. The leads are remarkable, the secondary leads, accomplished actors Michael Lang as Jack and Linda Rameizi as Mrs. Toothe, perfectly suited to their roles as genuine and questionable friends, respectively. John Kupres seems a bit young for the stated age of the couple's son, but handles the role nicely.
The sextet of Jenny and Richard's friends (Adrienne Pellegrino, John Lucas, Autumn Bradley, Conrad Schabauer, Lenny Leventon and Jenna Pollack) are largely caricatures of their time as written by Albee. Nevertheless, the actors give more than proficient performances as ignorant racists -- and maybe, something more -- disguised in sophistication and country club membership, the women cool and beautiful, the men self-satisfied and self-deluded.
The first half of the first act is a bit bland, the fault of no one but the playwright. Soon, however, through engrossing plot developments and a more thorough fleshing out of characters, the audience is enticed into Albee's idiosyncratic world, ensnared to a riveting conclusion.
Through outstanding acting and direction, the Arena Players Repertory Company transform a good play into something better, presenting a truly satisfying theater experience with "Everything in the Garden."
Don't miss it.
"Everything in the Garden," runs through July 31 at the Arena Players Repertory Company of Long Island, 296 Route 109 in East Farmingdale. Call 516.293.0674 for more information or visit www.arenaplayers.org.
"Aisle on the Isle" is a series of reviews of Long Island theater and music events by Aliceann Donnelly, former attorney and college professor, and incurable, lifelong theater and music junkie.