The Woods Hole Plays are two one-act plays written by playwright friends Bronwen Prosser of Woods Hole and Danny Mitarotondo of New York. Both plays were written to be performed in Cotuit Center for the Arts’ Black Box Theater, both are directed by Kathryn Walsh of Chicago, and both make use of the same three actors, though in very different ways.
Both plays were very well-received when I attended last week, and the audience seemed to relish the humor and wisdom of each play.
Bronwen Prosser’s “The Caretaker” looks at Woods Hole in the wintertime, examining the complex relationships between the caretaker of an estate and various members of the family who owns it. While there are references to the Cape and to the class distinctions that may surround the occupation of caretaking, the theme itself is universal.
In “The Caretaker,” Eric Edwards plays Mirv, an older, gently worn-out caretaker who lives in the front room of the family home. It is the only heated room, and Mirv has had to provide his own wood stove to make the room habitable. Even on a warm spring night, we could feel the chill that Mirv lived with and sense his isolation.
Prosser has a great ear for dialogue, especially in the opening scene, in which Mirv essentially repeats the same words over and over again, “No one sent me a message [that you were coming]” when Mia, played with beguiling charm and youthful naiveté by Anna Botsford, shows up unannounced one cold December evening.
Mirv is unable to deal with this interruption, but finally agrees to allow her to sleep on the sofa. The privileged Mia, who has never even had to work for a living, understands only that she has a right to stay in her family’s home. The next day Sheldon, a younger friend of Mirv’s, played by Ricky Bourgeois, shows up to help Mirv out with the landscaping tasks.
Sheldon, as straightforward as Mirv is cautious, is immediately taken with Mia and quickly sees the potential of the situation. Anna is open to all options, bubbling, “I had a feeling about you before I even met you.”
“Church,” written by Danny Mitarotondo, shows a sunnier side of the Cape, perhaps the eccentric/manic sun-bleached side. This time Eric Edwards is a minister named Eric. He is as alive and spirited (and wacky) as Mirv was gloomy, and it was fun to see Edwards handle the two roles so well.
Just back from a funeral, he proclaims, “When I officiate at funerals, I’m extra excited because the body is not mine.” He goes on to share his unconventional thoughts on several diverse topics.
His daughter, Anna, has just returned home to the family church with her boyfriend of two days, whom she intends to marry in a ceremony presided over by her father. Anna knows what she wants and is used to having her way; she screams throughout much of the play—her father describes her as a “beast,” and I kind of missed the sweet, ditzy, oblivious Mia of “The Caretaker.”
Bourgeois plays the groom, named Ricky, who seems dazed most of the time, unable to focus on his true feelings about Anna until Eric, in his own unique way, provides some much-needed pre-marital counseling.
“Church” makes reference to the Woods Hole Farmers Market in a very amusing way, and one can envision the lively street scene in Woods Hole on a hot summer’s day, even in the Black Box. Mitarotondo makes creative use of the Black Box theater, which is actually a small Cape-style house: characters run from room to room, have conversations with characters in other rooms, look out the windows, and rush out the doors.
The two plays, especially in this pairing with the same talented actors in each, are quite entertaining. I would have liked to have seen more specific Woods Hole/Cape Cod references but both plays to capture a feeling of the interplay between year-round and summer residents that is well worth exploring.
It is also nice to see original works by playwrights with Cape Cod connections. Both plays were workshopped during earlier staged readings at Cotuit and at the Woods Hole Community Center. Prosser grew up in Woods Hole and met Mitarotondo in New York, where they both studied acting and playwriting; as well as acted in and produced plays.
The Woods Hole Plays continue through June 29. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 4 PM.
Tickets are $15, $12 for members. Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit. For more information, visit artsonthecape.org or call 508-428-0669.