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“Tiny House”

Westport Country Playhouse

Westport Country Playhouse is currently offering a video stream of Michael Gotch’s multi-layered and absorbing play, “Tiny House.”  With excellent direction by Mark Lamos and a strong cast, this work draws you in slowly, gradually revealing more and more details of trouble under the surface of a Fourth of July party.  Indeed, “Tiny House” contains more than a few fireworks of its own.  In addition to being a fine piece of theater, the actual video production of this show is a marvel, using a mixture of actors against a digital scenic design (credit to the extraordinary Charlie Corcoran, with Hugh Landwehr responsible for the original scenic design).

Without giving too much of the plot away, the young couple Sam and Nick have invited family and friends to a holiday cookout at their eco-friendly home deep within the woods.  There are a bundle of secrets that pop up during the festivities, as family tensions rise, as well as a number of other surprises to be had.  Thanks to director Mark Lamos and his expert cast of seven, Westport Country Playhouse’s video stream of “Tiny House” is a rewarding and often riveting show that is very much worth seeing.

The protagonists in the show are Sam and Nick, respectively played by Sara Bues and Denver Milord. A young married couple, they have settled into a home within the woods, a “tiny house,” as Sam’s mother Billie (the terrific Elizabeth Heflin) describes it during the course of the play.  Both Bues and Milord give solid performances and they help to really set the scene of a Fourth of July cookout in which the fun is mixed with a foreboding sense of dread.  To offer some background, Sam’s father is in jail, having been convicted of a Ponzi scheme, with her mother, Billie, having now taken up with her husband’s brother Larry (portrayed endearingly by Lee E. Ernst.)  Needless to say, there is tension between Sam and her mother, as well as the threat of fights about politics and other various touchy subjects to ignite.

One of the strongest assets of “Tiny House” is the skillful group of actors who have been assembled for this show.  In addition to those mentioned, there is an older hippie couple Win and Carol, neighbors to Sam and Nick, who are delightfully played by Stephen Pelinski and Kathleen Pirkl-Tague.  Their very funny scenes (and how they clash with the other characters) provides a welcome sense of mirth amongst the central drama, and there is even a riotous moment when Carol offers some cake to Larry, a dessert which contains much more than is expected.  Rounding out the cast is Hassan El-Amin as Bernard, a kind of watchdog in the woods who foresees danger in the world.  It is a very small part, but the talented El-Amin certainly makes the most of his time onstage.

Still, the most outstanding performances are given by the three lead actors.  Sara Bues is very touching and sympathetic as Sam, and one can see in her face the horrors of having a father in jail and all the blame she puts on her mother.  As Sam’s husband Nick, Denver Milord is an easing-going nice guy, who, nonetheless, can explode in the various arguments and fights which “Tiny House” contains.  Milord is extremely impressive because he can switch personas within a moment’s notice and he also proves to be just the one who can truly stand up to Sam’s mother Billie.  As wonderfully portrayed by Elizabeth Heflin, Billie is a tough yet vulnerable character who has seen more than her share of grief.  Heflin is really quite brilliant in the role and she truly helps anchor the play throughout.

In addition to his skillful actors, director Mark Lamos works splendidly with his designers, including costume designer Tricia Barsamian, whose costumes really help to establish the characters, and the awesome music and sound design is courtesy of Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen.  And scenic designers Charlie Corcoran and Hugh Landwehr are unparalleled in their work and ultimately set the stage for this production of “Tiny House” to exist.  The play’s running time is an hour and forty-five minutes and Westport Country Playhouse has done an excellent job of making the video stream of “Tiny House” as entertaining and compelling as it is. This show is thus most highly recommended.

 “Tiny House” will be streamed at home until July 18, 2021. For more information and tickets to stream the show, please visit http://www.westportplayhouse.org.

Photo (L-R): Elizabeth Heflin, Denver Milord, and Sara Bues

One thought on ““Tiny House,” presented by Westport Country Playhouse, by Zander Opper

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