01 May 2016

Walter Cronkite is Dead, by Joe Calarco

The MAC production of Joe Calarco’s Walter Cronkite is Dead was spectacular. The acting was superb, and the play shifted deftly between laugh out loud funny (and I rarely laugh in the theatre) and deep sadness. Directed by David Beach, the show was great.

The play is about two women, Margaret (Cindy Ulrich) and Patty (Chris Adducchio), stranded in Reagan National Airport during inclement weather. Margaret, an east coast socialite in the grand Kennedy tradition, is waiting to meet her son before taking off on a trip to Moscow. Patty, a loquacious Tennessean, is taking her annual mother-daughter trip to London sans daughter. In the crowded airport terminal the two strangers end up sharing a table, and as they talk and bond, each opens herself to a very different type of person. They argue, the laugh, they commiserate, in a play that ranges from several minutes of drunken laughter to each woman in tears.

Both actors were superb. The main strength of the MAC production for me was the performances. Ulrich and Adducchio brought their characters to life in the way all theatre goers hope for. From the very beginning Adducchio brought us into the world of the character through her loud cell phone conversation punctuated with dropping one or more of her many purses and rolling suitcase. Patty is a woman who embraces life and herself (with all her faults), and does so loudly, proudly, and with a healthy dose of southern phraseology. While Patty is generally cheerful and chatty, the role allowed Adducchio to show her skill as an actor, incorporating not only the light southern charm, but deep sympathy, righteous indignation, and genuine sympathetic joy for her companion.

Ulrich brought out the richness of Margaret’s character, alternating between a New England tartness—particular after learning that Patty doesn’t care for the Kennedys—the free spirited exuberance of her ‘bad girl’ past, and a deep unease with her own life. Initially Margaret is the more restrained of the pair, and Ulrich played the distant, distracted, and slightly haughty opening portion largely through non-verbals that left little doubt about how she perceived the continuous stream of chatter coming from Patty. But the role opened up, even showing off Ulrich’s singing ability as Margaret re-enacted the musical number that got her thrown out of prom and banned from walking at her high school graduation.

A riotously funny, and deeply moving play, with spectacular performances. Walter Cronkite is Dead was a thoroughly enjoyable theatre experience.

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