Delightfully Off-Kilter: “13 Things About Ed Carpolotti”

Photo by Meghan Moore.

Photo by Meghan Moore.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Book, Music and Lyrics by Barry Kleinbort
Based on a play by Jeffrey Hatcher

November 28 – December 21, 2014
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA) It’s one thing to create a play that mimics the feeling of being trapped in a conversation with someone who is batty; it’s another to make such a play entertaining. As the play 13 Things About Ed Carpolotti demonstrates, the difference is all in the storytelling prowess of the off-putting character.

Virginia (Penny Fuller) is the strange woman of a certain age who captures our attention in this nearly-one-woman play. As the play begins, she is fretting and pacing in a comfortable house while a piano player (Paul Greenwood)  plinks away in the background, without explanation. As she begins to chat with the audience, or at least with her own memory, she settles down into warm recollections of her recently-deceased husband, and she sometimes breaks into song. The only sign of trouble in the early going is the dissident tones in the otherwise sweet melodies. It soon becomes apparent that Virginia is in danger as she must deal with the aftermath of her husband’s very questionable business practices.

This plot seems the making of a morbid tragedy, and certainly the dark moments in this play go on too long to avoid becoming too repetitive. However, Fuller uses the best beats of this script to create a very entertaining evening of the troubles of others. She has a Robin Williams-esque gift to suddenly inhabit the characters Virginia describes, from a pretentious banker to a oily mobster. The script also does a good job veering back and forth between trouble and sweetness, and the best moment of the play is when Virginia recalls a time she was forced by her parents to improvise the plot of a movie she has never seen to avoid getting in trouble.

If the play wraps up too neatly in the end, it’s hard to notice because we already have been captivated by the yarn that has been told by a master storyteller. In the end, this one-act leaves us wanting more.

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