Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, August, 1999

Poor Grandma Sylvia! Ignominiously run over by a garbage truck in her golden years. See her family gather before the mortuary to pay their respects. See them greet family members from far away, holding their hankies before their eyes. Listen to them remembering Sylvia with fondness and respect. Hear them squabble and bicker. See the grandson of questionable sexuality dance in the street before the hearse, er, taxi which brings Sylvia’s remains. Take a toke with a female relation so grief striken that she has to numb her mind with pot – or if you don’t like that she’ll offer you some cocaine later on…

Ah, yes. Interactive comedy returns to Adams in “Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral”. Victory Street productions launched its inaugural season with the interactive “Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding” last May. Then in June they offered a series of one act plays, where the amateur actors seemed to struggle more with lines and characterizations. Also, who hasn’t seen at least one evening of one act plays? But have you been to an interactive funeral before?

There are many familiar faces in the cast director Thorman Hulse has assembled, and these folks seem much more relaxed with the interactive concept and with themselves as performers. At “Tony ‘n’ Tina” actors would interact with me, but if I interacted back they were stumped. This time round I had real conversations with actors in character, and it was fun.

Interactive theatre is a relative novelty in this area, and it is a fun way to present community theatre productions with amateur performers. Go see your friends and relations dressed up pretending to be someone they’re not. Its a hoot, and it doesn’t require precise, deeply nuanced acting. These characters are very, very broadly drawn by authors Glenn Wein and Amy Blumstock.

This show is decidedly crude. If you are of the prim and proper persuasion, don’t go. If you are devoutly Jewish, don’t go. Did I mention that Grandma Sylvia and her family are Jewish? Well, they are, after a fashion, but from the very little that I know of Jewish funeral customs I can tell that neither the playwrights nor the director and cast were overly concerned with getting it completely right. This ain’t reality, folks.

In fairness to the cast, I must confess that I was able to see only three-quarters of their full dress rehearsal. I did not get to eat the condolence dinner because it wasn’t served (didn’t get any of Tony ‘n’ Tina’s wedding cake either. Who says the press gets all the perqs?) And I am told that I missed the very best dance number, although I enjoyed the two lewd offerings I did have a chance to see.

Is this great theatre? No. Is this a hoot? Yes. Go to be entertained, not enlightened. Go ready to laugh and eat and interact with the performers. What Hulse and producers Roy Thompson and Cheryl Clermont are trying to do is create a true community theatre in Adams. And with this third production I think that they are getting close.

“Grandma Sylvia’s Funeral” runs August 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7 PM at St. Stanislaus Kostka Society Hall, 8-10 East Hoosac Street in Adams. The action begins and ends out on the street, so if you arrived late try not to hit Sky Boy. The show runs about two hours including the condolence dinner. Call Victory Street Productions at 413-743-9319 for tickets and information.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999

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