The dysfunctional family comedy Keeping Faith is a terrific choice for Twin Beach Players’ season opener. When well-meaning parents kidnap their own daughter to frustrate her May-September romance, it’s high-stakes drama in a low-rent motel. The plot, inspired by a 2007 news sensation, requires only four solid actors and a simple space that lends itself well to cheapening. The Holland Civic Center fills the bill beautifully, and the cast is nearly there.
Prolific Baltimore playwright Mark Scharf has garnered dozens of awards for dramas that have toured four continents. In this, his first comedy, he riffs like a veteran. Without giving away too much of the plot, let’s just say he plays on the eternal themes of the generation and communication gap, lovers’ spats and history repeating itself. It should be tragic, but with this cast of characters it has the makings of pure hilarity. With better pacing, this show could be a gut buster rather than just a larynx tickler.
Ed, the father, (Tom Wines) is a pompous, Puritanical fool. He barks orders, and his naïve and distraught wife Jane (Jeanne Louise) balks. They wrestle and wheedle with their hogtied and hooded daughter, Faith (Lindsay Haas), and slowly — too slowly — enumerate the reasons for their criminal insanity. Fiancé Hart (Luke Woods) stages a dramatic rescue with resultant tussles and plot twists.
Louise brings a sweet, frenetic charm and considerable range to the character of the mother. But her role as foil to Wines is frustrated by his ponderous speech and gestures. He tries too hard at acting when he’d do better by reacting.
Haas, in her first adult lead, is a delightful surprise: calm and fresh, and, ironically, the only character in control of her emotions and life. It’s a shame that she is obscured for much of Act I, seated in a blind spot for all but the front-row audience, because when we see those flashing eyes and hear that scathing tongue, the pace picks up.
Woods is adorably inept and smug in his comedic rescue attempt — and disturbingly reminiscent of Faith’s blowhard father.
Blocking and script aside, things got off to a slow start with lights but no action, then an intermission in just 90 minutes of action.
The biggest problem with the opening night performance, however, was fan interference. One of last season’s leading ladies upstaged Act II with ceaseless giggle fits and talking. Her snorts obscured dialogue; I mistook them for a character’s sobbing or snoring.
Judging from audience reaction, a record-setting 40 strong, it appears that most of the crowd were friends or family of the cast, amused as much by the presence of their loved ones onstage as by their performances. But for us outsiders, it felt as awkward as someone else’s family reunion. And while I’m venting, Twin Beaches’ directors should stop apologizing in the program for their casting woes. It distracts from the performers’ accomplishments.
This cast is onto something good, and I expect it will shine by closing weekend. Go. Have fun. Just keep the production staff in view should your neighbors lose control.
Direction and Set Design by Gary Adamsen. Stage manager: Cheryl Thompson. Technical consultant: Lauren Kolstad.
Playing thru Nov. 13 at 8pm FSa; 6pm Su at Twin Beach Players, Holland Civic Center, 919 Walnut Ave., North Beach. $12 w/discounts; rsvp 410-474-4214; www.twinbeachplayers.com.