Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 12, 2009

The Porch

Majestic Theater, West Springfield, MA
through October 18, 2009
by Donna Bailey-Thompson

The porch belongs to the storybook cottage the widowed Alma lives in created by Set Designer Greg Trochlil, so inviting that it's no wonder neighbors Gert, Marjorie, and their husbands Leo and Pat, feel enough at home there to express intimate thoughts restrained by only token self-censorship. Set in 2005, Alma is hosting her first Labor Day family cookout since her husband's death five years earlier.

Gert reeks attitude. She's reading Bill Clinton's book, "My Life," flipping through pages in search of the juicy stuff. When she finds a titillating tidbit, she gasps, "Ohmygod!" Marjorie asks, "What are you reading?" Gert holds up the book. Marjorie's reaction is a sotto voce, "Oh, him." Wordplay gets rolling when Alma takes a cooking break. She doesn't understand the cryptic vocabulary Gert uses when alluding to Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Alma wonders if "oral sex" means "outloud." After inventive sign language and desperate searches for synonyms, Alma shrugs. "What will they think of next" and returns to the kitchen.

The depth of the husbands' friendship is borne out by Pat's solicitous inquiry about Leo's erectile dysfunction. "You're just having a little down period." The double entendres fly. Whereas Marjorie and Pat's relationship is full of questions. "Would you marry me now?" Marjorie wonders. Pat asks, "Do you mean the way you look now?"

For a while, the gay population is treated to fleeting humor. Alma thinks that "homosexuals" is code for "homeless sexuals." The kidding becomes edgy when pedophilia is mentioned. The personal topics the two couples treat with banter and gags, Alma puzzles to understand. But there's one subject she knows significantly better than they do.

Ellen Colton as a ditzy but sensitive Alma and Cheryl McMahon as good-natured Marjorie honed their roles in earlier "Porch" productions. Barbara McEwen's Gert misses no opportunity to stir the pot. As Leo and Pat, John Thomas Waite and Stuart Gamble are warm, fuzzy buddies.

Somewhere within playwright Jack Neary's entertaining "The Porch," there's a strong play waiting to emerge, one that will also engross and inform. As of now, "The Porch" with its many laughs is less play and more saucy sketches - bawdy humor sporting a college education.