Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 16, 2008

Tilted House

Chester Theatre Company
Chester MA
Now through August 24, 2008
August 14, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

Chester Theatre Company’s problem is one any acting troupe would welcome: regardless of a script’s popularity, their productions are noted for being interesting, indeed, provocative. Again, for their 2008 season, Chester has presented four disparate plays which have elicited reactions ranging from high praise to "Oh, please." The season’s finale, the world premiere of Tilted House by Susan Eve Haar, falls somewhere in between.

Not that Tilted House is a so-so play. The story line is there. The editor husband (Victor Slezak) has invited his wife’s old love, a successful novelist (Michael Milligan) to their summer seaside retreat which confuses the banked ennui in the restless wife (Ylfa Edelstein), mother of Henry (Alex Slezak, making his theatrical debut weeks before entering first grade). These are attractive people who, with the exception of Henry, are rife with nefarious goals, nagging doubts and occasional insights: "I should never marry a man who hates his mother." During an emotional meltdown, the wife begs her husband, "Reach for me, even if you don’t love me," only to have him say, "I can’t," which may be his way of saying, "I won’t."

If ever a play has potential, it’s Tilted House. There are sustained moments that pull the audience into the play but then, suddenly, there’s a glitch that breaks the bond: a succession of scene changes contributes to a choppiness; a few scenes take more time to set up and tear down than they do to play. The audience scrambles to find an opportunity to renew the caring they developed for the characters. These interruptions in the flow beg the question: Is it possible to reduce the number of scene changes, perhaps by spotlighting the actors, and so keep the story moving forward?

Against an idyllic background of sand, beach grass, ocean, blue sky, fair weather clouds and the screech of gulls, the characters cope, and sometimes toy, with the strain of resolving the messy issues perpetuated within a triangle of bruised egos. In sharp contrast is the sweet innocence of the boy. He does not deserve to live in a tilted house.