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Theater Review:

Dysfunctional made funny in play

April 16, 2008|By James Petrillo

The Falcon Theatre continues its all-comedy season with the world premiere of David Landsberg’s “An Act of Love.” It’s a uniquely modern comedy surprising for its depth and unpredictability. Landsberg takes a formulaic setup and turns it into something believable and resonant.

What starts as the familiar story of a neurotic son barely dealing with his overbearing mother splinters off in several directions almost immediately. Luckily, a seasoned cast of mostly TV veterans keeps the action from veering too far off course. Director Casey Stangl elicits understated and realistic performances from the entire ensemble.

Peter Sandusky (Timothy Hornor) is a mild-mannered insurance salesman preparing for his first date since a disastrous three-month marriage ended badly.

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Complications arise the instant Peter’s estranged sister Julia (Hedy Burress) blows into town desperate for a place to crash. She’s already worn out every last shred of goodwill with her family, and she returns this time with even more unexpected baggage.

As soon as Peter reluctantly agrees to take Julia in for a week, his self-centered mother (Susan Sullivan) shows up to voice her disapproval. Already stressed to the limit over his family’s constant dysfunction, Peter somehow keeps it together even when his blind date comes over dressed in the traditional burka of a Muslim woman.

It seems Maureen (Beth Kennedy) has decided tonight is the night to try out her new approach to dating — keeping herself completely covered so a guy judges her personality before he can judge her looks. The more intense and uncomfortable the situation gets, the more inventive Peter becomes saving his family and himself.

The only newcomer in the cast, Hornor serves as a solid anchor for the rest of the actors to bounce the eccentricities of their characters off of. Burress makes the sister a lovable loser, while Sullivan makes the mother a likable monster. Lovensky Jean-Baptiste and Jay Harik are both extremely vibrant in small roles.

Best of all is Kennedy, standing out while remaining completely hidden under black cloth the whole show. She mines comedy gold from behind a mask, even using her burka for some hilarious slapstick involving hard-to-locate arm holes and a glass of wine.

It’s a rare bit of physical comedy in a play more memorable for its dramatic moments.


 JAMES PETRILLO is an actor and screenwriter from Los Angeles.  JAMES PETRILLO is an actor and screenwriter from Los Angeles.

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