Theatre Review: Love, Lies and Taxidermy charms at Inis Nua
In his program notes, director Tom Reing proffers his reason for choosing to produce Alan Harris’s Love, Lies and Taxidermy at Inis Nua. He tells us that in addition to being a story of young love, the play is also love letter to the cinema. These words were helpful in mining the full measure of this charming and insightful play. The story is told through a collection of quick scenes often dyads between characters in the play. It is compelling and at times suspenseful. The narration moves seamlessly through the present and past. It is like a wonderfully edited film. The actions and interactions are so clear that they never have to slow down.
The story is told by three actors assuming multiple roles. The two lovers are played by Joseph Teti (Valentyn) and Francesca Picconi (Ashley). They exude a lovely chemistry from first meeting. It is fun watching them grow through the uncertainty of both post adolescence and their entrance into a world that is not supportive economically or emotionally. They each feel protective of his and her parents. Valentyn and Ashley are willing to sacrifice even their burgeoning love to right the lives of their parents. Teti maintains Valentyn’s ingenuousness throughout. You can’t help but root for him. Picconi is beautiful, caring and vulnerable. She deftly moves back and forth from Ashley to all the women characters. There is never a doubt about which character is present at the time.
Rounding out the cast as our narrator and others is Philadelphia theater veteran Seth Reichgott. He is marvelous as the quarterback of the play. Reichgott embraces the responsibility of keeping director Reing’s story on target. He skillfully moves the lovers through their troubles to a magical ending. He is especially effective when introducing the metaphor of taxidermy. His wonderful explanation of the science of taxidermy leads seamlessly to his character’s pride in having a hobby that helps him (a relocated Pole) feel accepted in the small Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil.
Loves, Lies and Taxidermy is also a tribute to stage craft. Christopher Haig’s spare but utilitarian set, Amanda Jensen’s supportive lighting and Zachary McKenna’s subtle sound design all frame Reing’s fluid direction. It is a wonderful evening of live theater. The play runs through March 4th at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake. For information and tickets call 215-454-9776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org