George and Helene Butler, played by Suzanne Marie Stewart and Stephen N. Moore, barely taste being empty nesters before their oldest son, played by T.J. Besler(center), returns back home. Photo: Tibbits Summer Theatre

Comedy Falters At Tibbits

By Bridgette M. Redman

Once you've become a parent, is the nest ever truly empty? Even after you think the chicks have all flown the coop?

Tibbits Summer Theatre closes out its season with "Alone Together," a 1984 comedy about a couple that is sending its third son off to college and is finally looking forward to getting some time alone as an adult couple without the cares of parenting.

Before Helene and George Butler, played respectively by Suzanne Marie Stewart and Stephen N. Moore, can get their third son out the front door, the first one has snuck back in the back door. At age 30, Michael Butler, played by T.J. Besler, has given up his job as a mathematician at M.I.T. to move back home and start over again. Then comes the middle son, Elliott Butler, played by Nate Klingenberg, whose wife has kicked him out, and he wants to move back home.

Besler and Klingenberg do a great job of playing adult adolescents who are self-absorbed and oblivious to the needs of their parents, or even that their parents could possibly have lives of their own outside of taking care of them.

Michael is the nerdy genius who tries to reduce everything in life to a formula - including why his parents should continue to support him. He may be the oldest of the three boys, but he seems stuck in high school. Besler is entertaining as he sneaks around upstage, trying to make sure Michael's parents don't notice how firmly he's entrenching himself in their home.

Klingenberg brings on the slime to Elliott. He's the eternal ladies' man who can't see why his behavior should offend his wife. Klengenberg practically oozes as he describes his behavior and as he reacts to the arrival of Janie Johnson (Lindsey Dakota) on the scene.

Dakota is also a delight to watch as she brings an oblivious insecurity to the part of Janie. She is easy to care about, even as her ditziness grows in absurdity.

However, the play relies on Moore and Stewart to make it work, the frustrated parents who love their children but want to be, as the title states, alone together. On opening night, these two were the weak links in the show. Moore stumbled with lines, mixed up names of children and cities, and failed to cover when things went wrong.

Stewart picked a single level early on and then had nowhere to go with it. She started out shrill and stayed there. She occasionally got quieter, but that was the extent of the variety in her tone. Her reactions to everything were so big and over-the-top, it was hard to separate her performance from that of a farce rather than a family comedy.

On opening night, the tech crew was also struggling. Pieces of the set were falling apart. Smoke came out at the wrong time, distracting the audience from one of Besler's more important monologues and building the expectation of an explosion that never came.

The sound design by Mark Abrahamson and director Charles Burr was effective and set the mood for the style of an '80s television sitcom.

"Alone Together" does have some charm to it, and there are plenty of laughs built into the script and the performance of it. If the actors playing the main couple grow more comfortable in their roles and connect more realistically to their characters, it could be a highly entertaining and warm comedy.

REVIEW:

'Alone Together'

Tibbits Summer Theatre

14 S. Hanchett St., Coldwater

8 p.m. Aug. 8, 9, 14, 15, 16

2 p.m. Aug. 13

2 hours, 10 minutes

Contains adult situations and language

$28-32

517-278-6029

http://www.tibbits.org

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