APRIL, MAY, AND JUNE
No, this is not a story about the next three months. It’s my review of the play that’s currently running at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills.
But I have a feeling that you’ll never guess why I wanted to see it. I’ll give you a second to ponder. Ready for the answer? Because my mother’s name is May!!!
And it’s even the same spelling, which is special in the world of female names; it’s usually written “Mae.” Lily Tomlin once pointed-out that our mothers had the same name. But her’s was “Lillie Mae,” as opposed to “May.” My mothers’s spelling is because she was born on the last day of the month of May. Her mother told her that had she been born one day later, they would have named her June! How crazy is that?!
So, anyway, I went over to Theatre 40 not knowing a thing about the play, except that I assumed it was about people named April, May and June. It just sounded like sisters to me, and I was correct.
It turns-out that the play is about one of the hardest topics for me—cleaning out one’s deceased parents’ house. And this was in New York, no less, just as I had to do there for two and half recent years! The only difference is that the three sibs in the play do it together, and my two sibs didn’t show up even once! They live right there, yet lil’ ol’ me had to keep flying in to Brooklyn to get it done all by my lonesome. (With lots of help from my friends, who are my real family.) [Note: I could never be in this play; I’ve packed enough for my life—I would not want to do it again every night for the run of the show! I’m not that great of an actress!]
Even though the way they do it in the play is totally unrealistic, it still brought back the PTSD I’ve been suffering over no longer having my parents, my childhood home, and my bi-coastal way of life. And, as awful as that is for me, that’s the best thing about this play—I have a feeling that the many different aspects of April, May, and June will make every audience member hark back to something in their own lives or upbringings. Even with some being painful, I think that familial and childhood memories are usually a good thing, on at least some levels. Or even just realizing that those of us who’ve gone through the house-emptying experience are not alone.
As to the actual play itself, I must admit that much of it was too cutesy and trite for my taste. But the body of the packed audience on a regular (meaning “not opening”) night laughed a lot, and in the right places. I thought it was okay enough, with good acting and perfect casting. And there were some surprises along the way, (which I won’t ruin for you, as most theatre critics usually do.)
Theatre 40 is always a good evening at the theatre. It’s the easiest experience in town, with a perfect location, close-by free parking, and a wonderful excuse to eat out in Beverly Hills before or after. On the night I was there this time, a woman told me that she had driven in from Sylmar to see it! And I was introduced to a show biz power couple who brought friends along for a fun night out. I even spied a famous actress on the way to our cars, (but I’ll tell you about her in my next Celeb Sightings column, so you’ll have to wait a little bit for that tidbit.)
So, back to April, May, and June. My favorite thing about the play is that it proves that middle children are the best. (And perhaps a tad over-looked.) My little mo and I are both middle children, and, in both of our cases, it’s not even a contest as to just who is the best child! And that’s all I have to say about that. (For now, anyway.)
I was also interested to see a Theatre 40 production with a younger cast than usual. I actually enjoy that most of their shows feature a bit more senior actors because it’s so different from the norm in this town, and also I’m always happy to see them employed. And those plays are, for the most part, really good. But it was fun to see them mix it up this time.
My biggest lauding must go to Michele Young, the costume designer. The outfits she chose are absolutely perfect for each of the characters’ personalities! What a great job of wardrobe!
And I also have to give props to the props! I’m always a fan of Jeff G. Rack’s sets at this theatre, but he outdid himself in the set decoration category this time. The whole show revolves around the tchotchkes these parents collected in their house, and I’m telling you—this is the first time in my theatre-going life that I was wishing the whole time that I had brought binoculars with me, to examine the creative props close-up. They made me miss all the wonderful items I let go from my parents’ house. I wish I had just sent them out here to Jeff! He would have made great use of them.
My favorite part of the script was the perfect pet names the ladies had for each other, riffing off their given ones. For example, “April” got changed to “Apricot.” And “May” got changed to “Maypole.” Many years ago, when one of my young kid pals asked my mother what he should call her, she came up with “Maybelle,” and that stuck. I think we all loved that moniker for her, but I sure wish that I had thought of some of the ones that this author, Gary Goldstein, came up with.
I do have one big bone to pick with something else in the script, though. One of the sisters said, “No one gets the parents or kids they want.” What a weird thing to say. And it’s far from true. I don’t think the world could exist if everyone rued the family they got! I think that more people than not are, if not happy, at least content with the parents and children they wind-up with. Especially children. I think that most parents blindly love their kids, and wouldn’t wish for them to be other than who they are.
That brings me to the one thing that made me sad about this play. I hate when people don’t appreciate their parents. And it’s even worse to me when they either don’t visit them enough and even worse, wish that they’d move away! I came out to Los Angeles as a teen-ager, but always went back to visit my parents. I’m not even sure that I really wanted to see them at the time, being that I was a young person discovering a new town and friends, but it was the right thing to do! And, as I grew-up, I always begged them to come out here to visit me, so I could entertain them! And when my father died, I went back to stay with my mother every six weeks for a year, and then at least three times a year after that, for a month each time. I made parties for her, and took her to fun places, and brought her a suitcase worth of gifts each time. Giving her a great time, and showing her love, was my joy in life. So, when I see ungrateful offspring, (as the ones in this show,) it really chaps my hide.
Whew. Just had to get that off my chest. But that’s part of what I meant earlier about this play making audience members think about this aspect of their lives. It may be somewhat painful, but it can be eye-opening at the same time.
Okay, now, let’s get to the few holes I found in the script. One was that they mentioned that their maternal grandmother was Lutheran, but they are Jewish. Guess what? In true Jewishness, you are whatever your mother is. So, if their mother was Lutheran, and their father was Jewish, the children would not be considered Jewish, unless their had mother converted, which was not mentioned in the script. It’s such a tiny bother, but I have a feeling that I’m not the only person of my ethnic persuasion to catch that.
Another hole is that, I know it’s fictional, so the packing isn’t exact, but every aspect of that—from how they did it, to not packing everything, to not being familiar enough with the possessions in the house they grew up in (except for one set of kitschy dishes)—was way too unrealistic for me. I may not be the usual grown-up daughter, but I knew every single item in my house in Brooklyn. When I cleaned it out, nothing surprised me. (Except for how much of a packrat I was as a kid! You would not believe the treasures I kept! And I knew exactly where each one was!)
While we’re on the packing, here’s another peccadillo about it. At intermission, the stagehand (a cute guy I recognized from having appeared in shows at this theatre) came out and “packed” some more, which made it seem like the action was going to take place hours later. But Act II began with continuous action from the end of Act I, so the house would have looked the same as it did then, not further packed-up. (It turns-out, the extra packing is to have it all done by the end, but still…)
And here’s one that drove me crazy—April and June tell May how great her hair is a time or two, but the actress has the rattiest tresses I’ve ever seen on stage! It looks like two weeks of matted bedhead. I think it’s a wig, (at least I hope it is,) but either way, why would the director let her have that horrible hair, especially if they’re calling attention to it? I wanted to run onstage the whole time, to give that woman a brush! (They do mention towards the end that she gets cheap haircuts, but that still would not account for such matted locks.)
On a very light note—the front of the program has a picture of three different women than the ones in the show, so someone might think that they’re seeing understudies. I’m just sayin’.
The worst hole, which distracted me the whole time was this: June, the youngest sister who flies in from Chicago to help, mentions very early on that she should have just “driven” there. They ask her how she would have driven all the way from Chicago to Long Island, and she seems flustered by the inquiry. So for the entire length of the play, I assumed there was going to be some revelation regarding that situation, like that she’s actually living in New York, but chose not to tell her sisters. I waited the whole play for that to pan out, but it did not. So, why is that conversation in there to begin with???
Okay, all that being said, April, May, and June is worth seeing. You’ll either discover something in it to relate to, or to help you with your own similar journey, or to at least laugh or cry about. And all that is exactly what an evening’s entertainment should provide, don’t you think?
April, May, and June running through April 16, 2017
Theatre 40 241 S. Moreno Drive Beverly Hills 310-364-0535 www.theatre40.org