Levittown

  • Date:
    July 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall


    A review by Tulis McCall

    Well this play is a confusing bit of business. There are more plots here than you can shake a stick at, and none of them ever get in the lead position to pull this story forward.

    Set in 1999, the story takes place in � you guessed it � Levittown, New York. Levittown was a planned community that crowded out farmland and put up houses that every GI was encouraged to purchase. And purchase they did. The houses were streamlined to a few designs and used scrap materials from the war.

    In this Levittown home there are three generations of dysfunction. The grandfather (Curson Dobell) is a man still haunted by WWII. His daughter Kathleen (Deborah Tranelli) is fighting off memories of a failed marriage by delving into every New Age Therapy known while her husband is having a meltdown in an identical house not far away. Her daughter Colleen (Susan Bennett) is a recovering addict, and is doing so well she is getting married. Kevin (Tristan Colton), the brother, is returning home after leaving his fourth college because he doesn�t know what he wants, and Cousin Brian (Todd Lawson) bounces through with the air of a kid from the Bronx.

    While the grandfather has flashes of the war, Kevin and Colleen try to reconcile with their father on account of the upcoming nuptials. Dad, however, is more twisted than most, and after 5 minutes of conversation, the relationships are back to being the shambles they always were. Colleen has a meltdown in which her fianc� protects her, and Kevin decides he wants to be a firefighter � like his dead uncle.

    That�s pretty much how it all shakes down, and frankly it is a little too much like life where things happen over and over with no noticeable change in site. In addition to the mountain of plots there is the reality of the set, which is a scale model of a Levittown home. The homes were built with the �living room� away from the front so �a working man can come home after a hard day and spend time with his wife and children.� Designed by a man, these houses forgot one very important fact, which is that the heart of a house is the kitchen. It�s the campfire. It�s the clan-gathering place. Always was.

    The set pulls people into an awkward assemblage and away from where they would have gathered. In addition, it swallows up sound � with the exception of Mr. Lawson�s voice � and we strain to hear the actors speak.

    The talent on the stage is considerable. I�d go see any one of them again. And it is refreshing to have the age-range span 50 or so years.

    Now all they need is a dramaturge to help this author figure out who this play is about. As it is now, he is dealing in ideas � which are not casual by any means. But we go to the theatre to see the characters. Ideas are best coming through the characters� story, and not the other way around.

    Tulis McCall


    What the press had to say.....

    "is as basic and old-fashioned as the houses in the planned communities of the title, but the top-notch cast sure does sell it."
    Neil Genzlinger
    New York Times

    "despite its excesses, is consistently engrossing."
    Frank Scheck
    New York Post