|Viv (Ambrosia Jasmine Webb) and Sam (Jenn Scott) pictured above (photo courtesy of Fearless Comedy Productions)|
Bridges of Madison County meets Nancy Drew: Girl Detective in The Bungalow Loft by Shanan Custer, directed and produced by Dawn Krosnowski. This heartfelt and funny mystery is a stage production presented by Fearless Comedy Productions in St. Paul running through October 16th.
On performance night, I brought my vaccination card along with my mask. The venue was at the Historic Mounds theatre and here wasn’t a stage. Instead, the actors performed on the floor inside a square of chairs, the lights were on everyone. From my vantage point, in the front row, I could see the actors full view, entering onto the stage from any one of the four corners. The minimalist set encouraged me to use my imagination for set details hinted by the dialogue.
The script itself exemplified the awkward feeling associated with death and loss. I found myself thinking about the connections the script made to classic films like Bridges of Madison County and Sex and the City, and asked myself if I could make that connection.
The night of the show, playwright Shanan Custer was in the audience. I asked her how this play came to Fearless. She said, "I was in touch with the Director, Dawn Krosonoski. There was a read through in March of 2019, and four days later the script was set for rehearsal. But then Covid hit and the production had to be post-poned.”
I could imagine the disappointment along with the heavy heart she must have felt and then the excitement of hearing three years later that this project would come to fruition.
The script attempts to answer questions about The Mystery of the Bungalow Loft. The character Sam (Jenn Scott) receives a notice about an apartment rented by her eccentric mother who passed away. Together, two sisters, Sam and Viv, along with their childhood friend, Hannah, unravel secrets about their mother in Nancy Drew-like fashion.
And like many mysteries, I found myself scrutinizing the plot. The use of Bridges of Madison County helped me draw a connection to why the daughters clung to the idea that their mother had a secret affair. There was something very intimate about imagining the secret life of the deceased. Should one face difficult, even shameful truths about a lost loved one? Or, would sugarcoating the death be more humane, both honouring the dead by keeping their secrets, and making the process of grieving easier?
Scene changes were noted with silent movements from the characters as they picked up pieces of the set, often a suitcase or a stool.
By the second half, I found myself wishing I could curl up in my pajamas and have a slumber party along with the characters if it meant I could listen to Viv (Ambrosia Jasmine Webb) recount stories of her childhood. Webb played a vivacious, funny character who was the opposite of serious. She followed characters and mocked their behavior towards bereavement.
|(photo courtesy of Fearless Comedy Productions)|
Hannah (Angela Fox) was another example of a character I appreciated because she celebrated life and gave a fresh perspective on feminism. While both daughters meticulously examined their mother's flaws, Hannah pointed out the mother's positive attributes and many things she had done for her daughters. “Your mom was amazing,” she said.
Director, Dawn Krosnowski had her four-person cast carry their way through the chaos, trusting that the deeper questions would reveal themselves. It’s a play that examines imperfections in the spirit of the moment. Come see The Bungalow Loft. Tickets at https://www.fearlesscomedy.org/