LIVE: “The Attic, The Pearls, and Three Fine Girls” @ Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield [GailSez]

All families have their skeletons hidden in boxes in attics and closets. And all families have their strands of pearls that bind them together, but haven’t I seen this play before in innumerable variations? Family reconvenes for some singular event – birthdays and weddings are good but funerals generate the ultimate in anger/sorrow/jealousy/liberation/etc. as well as the most profound life-altering gear-shift for all concerned – and then we watch while everyone reveals their secrets and lets their hair down – often under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol or, if the playwright wants to be really hip, pot. In the end everyone is sadder-but-wiser and the family winds up either closer than ever or shattered irreparably.

The Attic, The Pearls and Three Fine Girls was “written collectively” (whatever that means) by Martha Ross, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jennifer Brewin, Alisa Palmer, and Leah Cherniak – a group of Canadian writers/directors/performers of some renown – and it reeks of a kind of “Mad Libs” compositional method – insert a funny name beginning with “J” here, add a punch line there, pick a wacky career from the bowl in the middle of the table – so it is hardly surprising that I found the situation, er, plot formulaic as well. I have a sneaking suspicion that the “collective” writing process included quite a few improv sessions which became codified in the script. Improv is never as funny the second time around.

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