Squirrel Lake

photo albanycivic.org

Written by Brian Mitchell, directed by Scott Harvey. Runs through March 14th at Albany Civic Theater.

Siblings gather at their childhood lake house to read the will of their recently deceased mother. Wacky lake neighbors pop in as well as a delusional co-worker. Misunderstandings and mishaps abound in this farce of a tale.

The set is the best I’ve seen at Albany Civic! Designed by John Sams and dressed by Melissa Mills. She has out done herself with this play. It looks like a cabin transported from the lake and dropped onto the stage. The wall decorations, the shelves with games, books, etc. The height markings on the wall. The detail was so good! The brick fireplace, the log cabin wood under the windows. I was like a set kid in a set candy store 🙂

I really wanted this play to be as hilarious as people were saying. Maybe I had an off night last night? I remember laughing here and there; but, so much fell flat. I know where the jokes are–but they just didn’t land. Comedy, misunderstandings, and eavesdropping moments can be tricky if the timing isn’t quite right. A quicker pace, more true emotional moments, and maybe more work in character development for the actors so they have more places to go with their roles?

Jeff McMahon plays Phil Olsen, a lawyer with a drinking problem, his mother’s will to read, and a bit of trouble at work. Jeff has to drink a LOT throughout the play and does a pretty good job layering the alcohol and drunkenness along with great facial expressions. I would’ve liked to see him struggle a bit more with his work dilemma to give him a bit more depth.

Travis Hubbard plays Pat Olsen, a fry cook newly promoted to a lead position at Capt Happy’s Burger Barge. Not the most successful of the siblings and seems to be bitter about it. Travis is pretty dead pan throughout the show, which works some of the time, but leaves his character flat everywhere else. He’s likely to the only one of the siblings who has a clear head on his shoulders; but it gets lost in the monotony of his delivery, which is too bad because I liked his character arc the most.

Catherine Dorn plays Sally Olsen King, mother to four (unseen children), expecting her fifth, who names her children after countries (China, England, Malaysia, and and Spain) and is happily (?) married. Catherine has so much to work with here and yet didn’t seem to connect to the highs and lows of pregnancy hormones, anger, and desperation. She has great physicality and expressions for the stage, I just wanted to believe her more.

Daniel Dorn plays Bob King, mishap-cursed husband of Sally. Daniel has so many comedic moments in this show. He does a pretty good job staying consistent with his ailments and it’s hard not to feel bad for the poor guy. Except, no one in the cast feels bad for him. Somehow, no one else is affected by the poison ivy? (I saw you Sally, scratching your palm, but it was so subtle, it didn’t play across the audience.) The longest (possible) running gag and it wasn’t capitalized on. Skip seeing the rash. I would’ve liked to see real calamine lotion spots gradually spread over his body over the course of the show and the rest of the cast doing that subconscious scratching only to end up with some calamine spots as the show progresses. Daniel also seems to keep an even emotional keel even though he goes through some serious medical events at the same time his wife is (supposedly) very angry with him. I would’ve liked to see that more.

Jamie Muller plays Mary Hardy, a nun with nurse training who lives nearby and sister to Lance. Jamie just looks happy to be there in the mix. Her devotion to her faith is sweet at times; however, her sweet face doesn’t work when she’s supposed to be offended or angry or confused or struggling about lying. I would’ve liked to see her struggle more and show more self-control/restraint which would’ve balanced out her miracle.

David Milner plays Lance Hardy, a mentally unbalanced detective who lives nearby with Mary. He comes in like gangbusters and leaves no where to go. Only in theatre, can a character come in like that and not one person in the room leaves. He’s like a crazed maniac on the loose and no one seems too phased. I was. A bit too much over the top. Maybe just bringing it down a notch would’ve been just right. More paranoia, less Tasmanian Devil. When Lance emerges in Act Two, I fell in love with Milner’s character. He perfectly embodies the warmth and depth of his situation. (It isn’t Lance, but it is.) The Janet Reno line was classic and perfectly executed, by the way.

Dinee Rae plays Joy, a slightly delusional woman who works with Pat at the Burger Barge and has a bit of a crush on Pat. Joy is bubbly, a bit of a stalker (so we think), and hides a secret revealed late in Act One. Dinee comes in with great energy and holds it throughout the play. I would’ve liked to see Joy more focused on Pat forcing him to react physically to match his lines. I didn’t believe Joy as a flighty type and would’ve liked to see her more solid and confident which would’ve made more sense in the interactions between her and Lance. Two moths drawn to same flame… Her connection to the spiritual world would’ve been stronger with this level of commitment as well.

Overall, the play had a solid foundation but didn’t quite take off for me. I saw a lot of potential in the material, the skill level of the actors, and the set. I wanted it to be funnier than it was. I won’t be making any friends with this review.

I encourage people to support Albany Civic Theater and this show. Maybe, I had an off night? I know other people who thought it was hilarious! For remaining showtimes and tickets, click HERE.

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