REVIEW: Hilarious & heartwarming Handle With Care balances hope, grief


Print This Post  Email This Post

From left to right, Israeli travelers Ayelet (Anna Richardson) and her grandmother, Edna (Eileen McCann), laugh about an escapade from their trip to America in the holiday comedy Handle with Care. The show, written by Jason Odell Williams, performs at Burien Actors Theatre through Dec. 16. Photo by Michael Brunk | nwlens.com.

From left to right, DHX delivery person Terrence (Adam Hegg), English professor Josh (Tim Takechi) and Israeli traveler Ayelet (Anna Richardson), who can’t speak much English, attempt to communicate about Ayelet’s missing “package” in the holiday comedy Handle with Care. Photo by Michael Brunk | nwlens.com.

From left to right, Israeli traveler Ayelet (Anna Richardson) shares photos of her grandmother with Josh in the holiday comedy Handle with Care. Photo by Michael Brunk | nwlens.com.

From left to right, DHX delivery person Terrence (Adam Hegg) philosophizes to his friend Josh (Tim Takechi) about why certain things have happened in their lives in the holiday comedy Handle with Care. Photo by Michael Brunk | nwlens.com.

Review by Audrey Herold

Handle With Care, by Jason Odell Williams, is Burien Actors Theatre’s pick for the holiday season. Brought to life by co-directors Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick, it’s an ideal blend of both dark comedy and meaningful moments, with a little something for everyone.

Without giving too much away, the plot centers on Ayelet (Anna Richardson), a young Israeli woman who speaks little English, separated from her savta (grandmother), Edna, (Eileen McCann) who finds herself stuck in Goodview, a tiny town in Virginia. Local DHX delivery driver, Terrence (Adam Hegg), has been trying communicate effectively with her to no avail, and finally calls on his childhood friend Joshua, (Tim Takechi) an English professor who grew up attending synagogue on rare occasions, for help.

The resulting two hours is a delightful comedic romp full of chuckle-inducing one-liners from Terrance, romantic interludes between Ayelet and Joshua, and show-stopping, heart-kindling moments from Edna.

Albi Clementi’s set design isn’t beautiful, but that’s the point. The audience is immediately transported to a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere, complete with beige walls and those creaky, wooden-slatted, linen closet doors. Cyndi Baumgardner’s props and set dressing only further serve to cement the world of the play. One special treat within this set design is the falling snow that can be seen every time someone opens the motel door. Each glimpse is truly magical (and so realistic!) and really sets the tone for the cozy feel of this production.

The idea to display subtitles for Ayelet’s dialogue is a smart one, and this choice allows the audience to both hear and understand her speeches, without diminishing the reality of the language barrier between Ayelet and Joshua.

Adam Hegg is excellent in his delivery as Terrence, the DHX driver. He seemed to completely transform into the role and I quite enjoyed his performance. Tim Takechi possessed a good energy and was clear in his delivery, so it’s easy to imagine him as Joshua, the university professor, giving lectures and the like. His skeptical attitude towards life played nicely off of Adam’s enthusiastic nature. Anna Richardson does a lovely job juggling all of the Hebrew language, accent, and multiple emotional switchbacks within Ayelet’s character.

The bright and shining star in this ensemble is Eileen McCann, who plays Edna, Ayelet’s savta (grandmother). In this day and age it’s difficult to portray a “Jewish grandmother” without dipping into any stereotypes but she manages to do all of this and more seemingly effortlessly. Eileen had an excellent command of Edna’s accent and characterization, allowing the audience to simply relax and be fully transported into the story whenever she was onstage. The show-stopping moment is Edna’s monologue about her long-lost love from many years before, which Eileen deftly weaves through with incredible grace and strength. The story is both arresting and joyful, making the moments of heartbreak and loss all the more poignant. Eileen is masterful at balancing these bittersweet moments.

That truly is the beauty of this script by Jason Odell Williams– it’s a holiday-themed, romantic-comedy about family at its core, but is rife with moments of wry, chuckle-inducing dark humor, perfect for the audience-member who is already so over the typical saccharine holiday cheer, but rooted in enough tangible moments of authentic connection and meaning to satisfy even the holiday-season-enthusiast’s sweet tooth.

There is great interplay between all four ensemble members and one can tell that the moments specifically illustrating Jewish culture have been lovingly handled by directors Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick. It is also a beautiful breath of fresh air from the typical holiday canon of shows.

In general, the pacing in both the transitions and lines themselves, was quite slow on the preview I attended. I am hopeful that this was simply due to a general lack of energy as the result of a long tech week, and that with audiences in the house, the cues will pick up. I would also have loved to see more acting on the lines, rather than taking pauses in between for glances and “bits.” The script itself has a lovely rhythm and reserving these pauses for those specific, meaningful moments would have given them much more weight.

However, this production is a great choice by BAT for the holiday season and a great opportunity to see some local talent. With just enough cultural commentary to mentally chew on as you travel home, this production illuminates two fragile individuals wrestling with grief who discover hope in the opportunity to start anew – which is exactly what this season of darker days leading us into a new year is all about.

PERFORMANCES
The show continues through Dec. 16 on Friday & Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Get your tickets online here, or buy them in person at Pickled & Preserved; enjoy dinner and a show with Frankies B-Town Bistro, or send an email request to [email protected].

Upcoming performances:

  • Friday, November 30, 2018: 8pm
  • Saturday, December 1, 2018: 8pm
  • Sunday, December 2, 2018: 2pm
  • Friday, December 7, 2018: 8pm
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018: 8pm
  • Sunday, December 9, 2018: 2pm
  • Friday, December 14, 2018: 8pm
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018: 8pm
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018: 2pm

SAVE $5 OFF WITH OUR COUPON
And be sure to print your own $5 Off Coupon by clicking below:

Click image to print coupon.

Handle with Care is sponsored by 4Culture and Pickled & Preserved.

More info at https://burienactorstheatre.org.

Print This Post  Email This Post

Comments are closed.