Second chance for Rep’s ‘Three Viewings’Written by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Abu-Absi loves to act, but on May 21 she hopes to stay firmly planted in her director’s chair during the Toledo Repertoire Theatre’s reading of “Three Viewings” by Jeffrey Hatcher.
“Three Viewings” features three half-hour long monologues performed by F. Scott Regan, Jennifer Lake and Patricia Rudes. Due to heavy snowfall, a previous performance on Feb. 5 at the Valentine Theatre was nearly canceled because the weather prevented Lake and Rudes from making the show.
“I was at a family birthday party and my husband called with the message that the actresses were flipping out and couldn’t make it,” Abu-Absi said. “The Valentine general manager said they were going to pull the plug. A half an hour before curtain, I got a call saying there were about 30 people there.”
“We were all kind of shocked,” said Brad Smith, president of the board and interim artistic director for the Rep. “The readings don’t draw big audiences anyway. They are material people haven’t heard of, sometimes there’s adult language, and it’s not for everybody. To have so many people show up for an unknown show in the blizzard was quite surprising.”
With enough of a crowd in attendance, the show had to go on. Abu-Absi is an experienced actress, recently playing the female lead in the Rep’s “Chapter Two.” She filled in for both actresses despite never rehearsing the parts.
“I was totally freaked out about having to go up there and do it,” Abu-Absi said. “I just kept thinking ‘Pat needs to be here.’ She is totally the glue in this piece. She is a very strong woman and worked very hard. She is a widow, just like the character. Sometimes during rehearsals she had to stop. I thought ‘I can’t take away the opportunity for her to play this part.’ She’s very distinct.”
“It put Kate in a terrible position, and it was a real shame for the actors who put all the time into rehearsing and didn’t get the payoff of showing it to the audience,” Smith said. “It was unfortunate on a number of levels, but the show went off and people seemed to enjoy it.”
Smith wanted to provide the actresses with an opportunity to finally perform the monologues.
“As an actor myself, I know how frustrated I would be if I didn’t get to perform,” he said. “I sympathized with the fact they put in this time and didn’t get the benefit of it.”
The Rep’s staged readings are just one-night shows, but Smith was willing to foot the bill for another performance of “Three Viewings.”
“I have to look out for the Rep’s financial interests,” he said. “Even though we’re not going to gain or lose a lot no matter how well the show does, I couldn’t justify the risk. Since the expenses are relatively low upfront, I figured I could make it one of my donations to the Rep and a goodwill gesture to the actors as a thank you. I’m looking forward to seeing them perform the roles. Now I can try and dull the memory of the horror of Kate and see how it’s properly done.”
All kidding aside, Smith enjoyed Abu-Absi’s performance of both monologues.
“The February audience was not cheated in the least,” he said. “They saw a great performance. When Pat and Jennifer get to do it, they’ll see a great performance then, too. We didn’t miss a beat. Kate’s that good.”
“Three Viewings” contains three monologues set in the same funeral parlor within a week of one another in a small town.
“The subject matter deals with death, but it’s not morose,” Abu-Absi said. “Some moments are sad, but it’s not dwelling in that. It’s full of life and it is funny. It catches you off-guard. The monologues are really well-written. It’s not predictable, but it’s not out there in a way you can’t relate to.”
Regan opens the show with “Tell-Tale” as a mortician named Emil who is in love with a woman attending funerals for business purposes.
“During auditions, I realized right away he was perfect for this part both physically and in his energy and everything,” Abu-Absi said. “He’s been delightful to work with.”
Lake is up next with “Thief of Tears” as a grave robber named Mac.
“I consider it to be an incredibly challenging part,” Abu-Absi said. “In the very first paragraph, she says she robs corpses and describes how she does it. You want to think of her as a bad person, but throughout the course of it you realize what has happened in her life and understand. Jennifer really is the thief of tears. It makes you wonder who you would be if you had lived the character’s life.”
“It’s such a daring thing for the writer,” Smith said. “He’s purposely setting her up to be so unlikeable to see if by the end of it you can sympathize with her.”
Rudes plays a widow named Virginia in the final monologue titled “Thirteen Things about Ed Carpolotti.”
“When she auditioned for that part, I cried, and I’m not even a crier,” Abu-Absi said. “She is so perfect. It deals with losing someone you love but finding all these disappointments. It’s the best monologue in the show and one of the best I’ve ever heard.”
Smith said he sees the staged readings as opportunities to take risks with pieces like “Three Viewings.”
“The Edgy Rep readings are a way to push the envelope even more with material people haven’t heard of,” Smith said. “We couldn’t fill three weekends with some of these pieces, but we can get one good audience that will appreciate this challenging, unusual piece.”
Despite the near impossibility of snow on May 21, Abu-Absi is not getting her hopes up for a large turnout.
“It will probably be the most beautiful day of the year, and we’ll have no audience,” she said. “Everyone might want to be outdoors. It would be amazing irony.”
Tickets are available for $10. The reading begins at 8 p.m. in Studio A of the Valentine Theatre at 410 Adams St. Visit ToledoRep.org for more information.