Funerals provide an opportunity for family and friends to find closure after a personal loss as well as give a way to reminisce, reflect, and renew other relationships at the traditional viewing at funeral parlors, however, each viewing stands unique.
KCAT’s current production, Three Viewings, a 90-minute offering by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, creates a unique theater viewing experience in that performances occur at the Muehlebach Funeral Home to help simulate the funeral viewing process.
The combination of a sharp script, well-trained actors, and a funeral home setting created a theatrical event different from a traditional theater. The resulting performance encouraged a standing ovation for the three actors who delivered 30-minute monologues to a small limited-seating audience.
The first of the trilogy for the evening “Tell-Tale,” provided KC actor, David Fritts a chance to develop an amusing subtle comedy piece about unrequited love, the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and sometimes disappointment of unfulfilled anticipation. His performance expands and grows with each scene of the piece. His endearing delivery as the funeral director with a hidden agenda elicits smiles hnd laughs throughout his piece. At times, his interior monologue reminds viewers of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Tell Tale Heart”; –hence, the title of the piece.
Second up, Katie Gilchrist performs a more distinctly different character as Mac in “The Thief of Tears.” In this piece Gilchrist works her way through a piece that allows her to develop a likeable, grief-stricken, professional, mourner who benefits from each selective funeral she attends. The piece is full of surprisingly unexpected twists and amusements but comes back to the reality of family funerals and reconciliation. Gilchrist takes the audience on a joy ride with a character and plot completely unexpectedly.
The final piece, “Thirteen Things about Ed Carpootti,” confirms that everyone can be duped and that those that love you most, know you best. Ed’s widow, Virginia, masterfully played by Jeanne Averill, finds herself in a bind after Ed’s untimely passing. A life full of love, devotion, and extravagance comes full circle as details emerge of Ed’s life. Throughout the piece, the audience hears that Ed was a “wheeler-dealer,” a nice way to say con-artist. The audience never anticipates the conclusion of the piece because several “red herrings” distract from the central plot. Averill does masterful job of tossing out those red-herrings and distracting the audience’s focus.
The trilogy, Three Viewings sounds like three separate pieces, but the playwright carefully crafted them to fit well together into one cohesive performance. Some characters and locations overlap the pieces so that enhanced the cohesive nature of the production.
Another unique feature of the piece rests in the funeral home setting and the idea that the audience comes for the viewing with stage and tech crews dressed and performing as funeral directors. The transition between each piece flows smoothly as the stage crew comes and rearrange floral pieces to simulate a totally different funeral viewing–a nice added touch. The funeral home setting helps instill the idea that people of all walks of life come together at funeral parlors for one unified purpose.