Arts & Events

Great Characters and Staging Win in Masquers' “Expecting Isabel”

By John A. McMullen II
Thursday January 24, 2013 - 11:17:00 AM
Katina Letheule, Abhi Katyal, Shay Oglesby-Smith, Loralee Windsor, David Irving, Vicki Zabarte, Richard Friedlander
Jerry Telfer
Katina Letheule, Abhi Katyal, Shay Oglesby-Smith, Loralee Windsor, David Irving, Vicki Zabarte, Richard Friedlander

“Expecting Isabel” by Lisa Loomer at the Point Richmond Masquers Playhouse has a talented and well-rehearsed cast of actors that keeps the action fluid and energetic. Playing several characters with well-defined dialects and different embodiments, there is a surprise every few minutes. 

It’s a comedy about a couple who wants a child, with all the twists and misgivings they go through to try to either conceive or adopt. Playwright Lisa Loomer is best known for her play “The Waiting Room,” and for screenwriting “Girl Interrupted.” 

Director Michael Sally cast well and made sure there was no lag time or missed cues.  

It is played on a bare stage with a blue diorama. Furniture appears and disappears without a hitch or calling attention to the movement. 

Abhi Katyal as the husband Nick, is a talented young actor with the ability to be natural and interesting. He plays an Italian-American fellow, and once you get past the ethnic incongruity, he does it well with just enough gesticulation and trace of an accent to be believable. 

Shay Oglesby-Smith, who plays the wife Miranda, has been the Masquers “go-to” leading lady with a record of outstanding musical theatre and character performances. She looks a bit senior to her partner, and in this role does not draw our sympathy as she might. She is angular and easily irritated, and shies away from showing us the depth of heartbreak and confusion that her journey toward motherhood must stir up internally. Though playing a WASP with a hereditary emotional shield, she never lets the mask drop. 

The couple seems to lack an emotional connection. The trap in these plays with many asides to the audience is that the presentational style carries over into the dyad acting and interferes with true communication and intimacy. 

Wide-ranging characterizations of an Italian-American Catholic family, adopting parents support group, and sundry roles are done with pitch-perfect dialect and differentiation by Richard Friedlander, David Irving, Rachel Kaplan, Katina Letheule, Loralee Windsor and Vicki Zabarte. Roles of potential baby-mothers looking to give up their infants are portrayed with humor and pathos by Rachel Stella Kaplan and Vicki Zabarte. Nick’s Italian mother-- played by Ms. Letheule with her novenas and superstitions--and Miranda’s WASP mother--played by Ms. Windsor with her martinis and tidbits from entertainment magazines – are especially buoying and memorable. 

The play is a little formulaic, but the characterizations save it. More connection between the principals would have taken it from enjoyable to moving. 

It’s out by 10 pm, and gets a recommend for non-controversial comedy from this reviewer. 

Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, CA 

Fridays and Saturdays through Feb 23 with Sun Mats Jan 27, Feb 3 & Feb 17 / (510) 232-4031