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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
“A Little Piece of Heaven” is a trifling comedy by Matthew Carlin that takes its title from the curiosity shop where it is set in present-day Anytown, USA. The shop is owned and run by a relentlessly affable and vaguely mysterious pair named Henry and Elizabeth. They are played by Gary Reid and Christine Kimel in this rendering by Attic Productions of Botetourt County.
Into the shop one day steps Michael Cain (Toby St. Clair), a motorcyclist whose bike has run out of working parts and whose wallet has run out of cash. After joking that Cain is “not the actor,” a lame quip that unfortunately is recycled more than once during the show, Henry and Elizabeth immediately offer room, board and a job in the shop.
Michael accepts, anticipating only a short stay. But such things have a way of going topsy-turvy in plays of slight ambition, of which this one is an example.
Those who cross the threshhold of A Little Piece of Heaven tend to discover long-lost curiosities of inordinate sentimental value. Or they confront buried memories. Or they’re swept into adventures of self-discovery.
One intuits early on that lessons will be learned, lives will be changed and endings will be happy. Playwright Carlin even finds space for a nod toward religious faith before closing the curtain on his play.
“A Little Piece of Heaven” should be a 90-minute show. Unfortunately, the Attic production consumes more than two hours at the languorous pace set by director Nancy Lawrence . Perhaps she has upped the velocity since the opening night performance witnessed by this reviewer.
Lawrence directs a cast of 11 in addition to the aforementioned Reid, Kimel and St. Clair. Though adequate to the material, almost all of the performances would be improved by the injection of livelier timing and a litte more zest. An exception is the standout portrayal by Wendy Neuman of Lily, a local widow whose relationship with Michael turns from love-hate to love-love. It’s a predictable transformation, but Neuman handles her side of it with pleasing snap and crackle.
St. Clair’s performance is a little uneven in comparison, but they’re still a fun couple to watch.
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