From Burlington Free Press
by Brent Hallenbeck
Friendship takes many forms in the play “The Family of Ewe,” which opened Thursday in Burlington. There’s laughter and there’s tears. Sometimes there’s a well-timed extended middle finger, or a scathing remark that cuts right to the bone. In the end, though, there’s love and faithfulness.
The script by Vermont playwright Carole Vasta Folley says nothing illuminatingly new about the bonds of friendship, but it covers familiar ground with style and great humor. “The Family of Ewe” is the latest effort by Girls Nite Out Productions, and it’s a fast-paced, fun tour through the tribulations of togetherness.
“The Family of Ewe” centers on a trio of friends who share a house: Hannah (played by Heidi Tappan), a new-age hippie; Kathy (Kim Swain), a likable cynic; and Jane (Linda McGinnis), who treads the space between the two so sharply that her extreme rationality is almost irrational. They had been a foursome, but at the start of the play they’re returning from the funeral of their friend and housemate, Anne.
The pals have regular gatherings at their home (a full, beautiful set designed by Ann Vivian) for a group Hannah calls Enlightened Women Empowered, aka EWE, hence the title of the play. The expanded circle of EWE includes caustic Toni (Girls Nite Out co-founder Janet Stambolian); sassy Jen (Kathy Seiler), the only (somewhat regretfully) married woman in the bunch; and ditzy Patty (Robin Owens), who, when the group runs through a dating exercise, comes up with the lamest flirtatious lines ever. (“I collect gnomes.”)
The tight-knit group’s dynamic gets rocked by a couple of tremors, the first when Toni’s new employee, Margeaux (Rebecca Raskin), tries to join the fun only to discover an unfortunate connection with one of the EWE members. The second seismic shift comes when Anne’s troubled daughter, Madeline (Perry Vasta), resurfaces out of the blue to upset the household’s apple cart. (An aftershock caused by a return visit by Margeaux is more implausible.)
That all sounds more complicated than it is. “The Family of Ewe” has a fair amount of moving parts but they all stay on track thanks not only to the sharp writing of Vasta Folley but also to her directing, which keeps the production moving crisply and tightly despite its slightly excessive length approaching two and a half hours.
“The Family of Ewe” holds together, just as friendship does, through laughs and personal connection. Vasta Folley’s script is filled with bright humor, such as when Kathy ribs Jane for the date she had with a man with no teeth and Jane rushes to correct her: “He said he left them at home!… The point is he has teeth.” During the mock-dating scene the always ebullient Hannah proclaims “We should all be having sex regularly!” which leads the more realistic Kathy to respond “And own a unicorn!”
McGinnis, Tappan and Swain, the three actresses at the heart of “The Family of Ewe,” interact perfectly. They never leave the audience with the impression that they couldn’t be best friends, despite their opposing personalities and occasional run-ins. This is a wordy, fast-moving play that would be a maelstrom for three women to pull off by themselves, but the trio has plenty of help from the amusing Seiler and Owens as well as Perry Vasta, whose sullen young character develops into the sensitive soul of the script.
“The Family of Ewe” is great fun. Even if you don’t leave feeling empowered or enlightened, you should leave feeling entertained.
“The Family of Ewe,” written & directed by Carole Vasta Folley, produced by Girls Nite Out Productions.Thursday. October 3rd – 13th, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2pm. At Main Street Landing Black Box Theater, Burlington. $18-20. Info, 863-5966. girlsniteoutvt.com