‘Unexpected Tenderness’ shows insight into darkly comedic, relatable family problems from CAT Theatre
If family drama, a psychotic father, feel good stories, and/or dark comedy are your thing then CAT Theatre’s Unexpected Tenderness, opening this weekend, might be just the play for you.
The play centers around a blue collar, New England Jewish family during the 1950′s. Roddy Stern, played by Nick Daauley, narrates this drama as he talks to the audience and reminisces about what life was like living with his father.
The father in question, Archie, played by Fred Iacova, is a violently paranoid man who is “pathologically” jealous to the point that he pushes his family away.
Roddy struggles to escape from his family’s dark past and his history of abuse at the hands of his father. He hopes to become his own man, despite mounting odds.
The play was written by Isreal Horovitz in 2012 and will be directed by Bill Patton. Patton is a veteran director, working in RVA theatre for over two decades.
Patton said sticking to Horovitz’s original was key to developing this production, saying he “found out what his vision [was] and then try to stay faithful to the text as much as I can”.
Eva Devirgilis plays Archie’s wife Molly while Iacova will play dual roles as the father and son.
“I think it’s about a young boy coming into his own, the wife and mother coming into their own,” said Devirgilis about the story which features three generations living together in the same household. “It’s about breaking the familiar dysfunction that happens generation after generation and going on your own to try and stop this dysfunction cycle from happening again”.
Although Unexpected Tenderness deals with real life issues, Patton said it’s not a drama that will be difficult to watch. He promised a lot of funny moments, painting it more of a dark comedy than anything else.
This play will also be the first time Cat Theatre and 5th Wall have collaborated, a relationship 5th Wall’s Artistic Director Carol Piersol said was working beautifully.
“I really admire [CAT Theatre's] work, were talking about it being neat to do something together,” she said. “[This play was] a great opportunity to get together”
CAT Theatre and 5th wall shared volunteers, but the set and production side was mostly left to the folks at CAT as they hold the theatre space. Patton was someone both companies were familiar with, making him an easy choice to agree on. Throughout the process of staging the play Piersol said both companies sat in on important parts like casting, getting to put her two cents worth along the way.
“[Unexpected Tenderness] is a family play, very funny, but it hits hard hitting,” Piersol said. She said she’d seen a few dress rehearsals and was excited to have folks come in and see the final product. “I’m interested in seeing the audience’s reaction,” she said.
The playwright himself has been present for some of the production and will be on hand for the show’s talkback sessions, giving viewers the chance to dive deeper into the play’s story and meaning.
Unexpected Tenderness opens this weekend, Friday, January 22, 2016 and runs until February 12, 2016 at CAT Theater. You can pick up tickets here.
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