WHAT “Betty’s Summer Vacation”
WHEN | WHERE Through Nov. 6. Upcoming: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Bare Bones Theater Company, 57 Main St., Northport
TICKETS $25, $15 students; 631-606-0026, 800-838-3006, barebonestheater.org
Never mind the title, “Betty’s Summer Vacation,” or the rhythm of ocean waves washing over the grisly anarchy that foreshadows fade-to-black tranquillity. Bare Bones Theater Company astutely scheduled Betty’s beach time for the Halloween season.
Christopher Durang’s diabolically angry 1999 Off-Broadway comedy remains frightfully relevant to today’s attention-deficit-disordered demand for instant/constant gratification in entertainment.
Soon after Betty arrives at a beach-house rental share with her motormouth friend Trudy, we learn the source of Trudy’s hyper-inattentiveness. The landlady, Mrs. Seizmagraff, is Trudy’s mother, who unexpectedly announces she’s staying with them and the other housemates they’re awaiting. When Betty points out that there’s no bed for her, Mrs. Seizmagraff suggests that one of the guests may die in a car accident en route to the rental. Seconds later, a phone call bears news that proves Mrs. S. tragically clairvoyant.
Subsequently, the summer housemates encounter rape, dismemberment and a guest who shows up bearing a hatbox and shovel and is caught wearing bloody gloves. Trudy reveals and Mrs. S. confirms that “her father incested her while he was drunk.” Mom did nothing about it and remains jealous of Trudy, who proclaims to the rafters: “I’m glad you’re dead, Daddy!”
Above those rafters we hear a laugh track that later morphs into commentary and demands by three voices who insist that the housemates entertain them, however revoltingly.
As directed by Eric Clavell, “Vacation” glides without conscience — except for Betty’s — between mirth and mayhem. Gabrielle Marie plays Betty straight, sympathetically soldiering on, alone in her sanity, when others would flee.
Sinead Atkinson portrays parentally abused Trudy as damaged beyond repair, while Andrew D’Anneo as Keith, the hatbox-shovel recluse, embodies the cliche of the dangerous “quiet one.” Stephen Zuccaro as Buck, a sex-fiend lout, and Stephen Shelowitz as Mr. Vanislaw, a flasher Mrs. Seizmagraff picks up in the ladies’ changing room at the beach, add massive doses of testosterone to the ghastly summer-share mix. Synchronized voices of Evan Cannon, Kelly Schmidt and Thomas Romanski deserve mention, though performance-space limitations constrain them in ways we can’t reveal here. But the madness is crystallized in Joan St. Onge’s serial scene-stealing performance as Mrs. Seizmagraff (in garish costumes by Kate Madigan), especially her frenzied “Court TV”-style multiple-character monologue.
While the author may hit us over the head a bit too insistently about media-fueled addiction to instant gratification, St. Onge and company keep us laughing as we squirm.