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Dancing With The Past



DANCING WITH THE PAST, Factory Theater Company, and FACTORY MATCH GAME '99, Factory Theater Company. The Factory Theater's first productions since taking control of the space formerly known as Footsteps are very different--one is a serious play about three sisters coping with their mother's death, the other a camp homage to a daytime TV show.

Of the two, Dancing With the Past is the more ambitious. Playwright Patricia Sutherland, who also directs, displays considerable sensitivity as she sketches out the relations between the sisters--a homemaker, an academic, and an international gadabout--as they divide up their mother's things. The play faintly echoes Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig--much of the drama depends on the tension that develops when siblings who love each other deeply but want to maintain their individuality spend time together--though Sutherland has neither Wasserstein's theatrical craft nor her gifts as a storyteller. Even in its best moments the play feels like a first draft, and it runs out of gas about two-thirds of the way through, after which Sutherland depends on a series of faintly melodramatic surprises to keep the story going.

The actors, known primarily for their work in comedy, turn in credible, moving performances, reinforcing my belief that good comic actors can make the switch to drama more easily than serious actors do to comedy.

At least Sutherland attempts to tell a story. Factory Match Game '99 is nothing more than a re-creation of the game show first broadcast in the 60s and revived in a campier, glitzier version in the early 70s. The game featured half a dozen second- and third-tier TV stars (Rip Taylor, Charles Nelson Reilly, Betty White) who helped two contestants compete for valuable prizes.

Factory plays the game straight--this production is more plagiarism than homage--the only twist being that six Factory regulars impersonate the celebs who populated the show. These impersonations range from not particularly convincing to pretty good, though only Matt O'Neill fully enters into the spirit of things with a spot-on imitation of Richard Dawson. This funny show is marred by one's sense that it was thrown together to fill an empty slot in the Factory schedule.

--Jack Helbig

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