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Queens Chronicle

The matriarchal complexities in ‘Daughters’

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:30 am

The latest production the Douglaston Community Theatre is putting on is a little-known domestic comic drama aptly entitled “Daughters” — there isn’t a man in sight.

The story, written by John Morgan Evans, revolves around four generations of women in an Italian-American family as they deal with a crisis.

As directed with understanding by Marilyn Welsher, the five actresses who compose the entire cast work as a well-oiled ensemble to bring to life the individual characters who make up the female side of the family.

The men in their lives, who are often the focus of their conversation, are never seen.

As this is an ensemble piece, several stories — as opposed to a singular tale — intertwine to create a rich plot.

The conversations within the D’Angelo family, which is far from angelic, often lead to arguments — a concept commonly portrayed in scripts that focus on family dynamics and relationships.

Of utmost concern is the health of the family’s patriarch, who, as the play begins, is in the next room, listening to opera, and possibly facing the removal of his larynx. The family is torn as to what step to take next on his behalf — a conflict almost every person has to deal with eventually.

All the while, the outspoken eldest daughter, Tessie, is the last to discover that her husband has been philandering. When she gets word, her mental instability kicks into high gear.

Her sister Patty Ann, whose husband has recently taken control over their father’s business, another thorn in Tessie’s side, has reason for concern over her own marriage.

Their endearing but dim-witted mother, who is forever putting her foot in her mouth by bringing up inappropriate matters at the most inappropriate times, tries to solve everyone’s problems by serving up newly prepared lasagna and manicotti, a common tradition in their Italian household.

It is as if throughout all of the rough and trying times, a little piece of happiness is just a pasta dish away.

Clearly the most sensible family member is 17-year-old granddaughter Cetta, who is wise beyond her years and often takes on the role of mother.

And then there is Grandma, who utters not a syllable and may or may not be as oblivious as she selectively appears.

All this makes for quite the soap opera, and the play does become repetitious, but the fine performances from the entire cast combine for a memorable evening (or matinee) with the D’Angelos.

Kim Kaiman has the showiest role as Tessie, and she effectively conveys the complex character’s constantly changing moods.

As her mother, Sharon Levine has a dry delivery reminiscent of Jean Stapleton’s iconic Edith Bunker character, and earns many of the evening’s laughs.

Elizabeth Bisciello makes a strong impression as Patty Ann, cradled infant constantly at her side, dealing with life’s problems in her own way.

Harriet Spitzer-Picker, a bit mature as the teenaged Cetta, makes it clear that she’s the most level-headed member of this family, a young woman struggling to find her independence and herself.

Without saying a word, Madelon Avallone commands attention as Grandma, managing to keep herself occupied without distracting the audience from her fellow actors. Her expressions are most, well, expressive.

The kitchen set, on which the entire play takes place, has been appropriately designed for utmost realism by Kevin Vincent.

Kudos must also go out to the sound and music crew for their perfectly timed contributions.

‘Daughters’

When: Nov. 22, 23, 29 and 30 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 24 at 2 p.m.

Where: Zion Episcopal Church Hall, 243rd Street and Church (44th) Avenue, off Douglaston Pkwy.

Tickets: $17; $15 for seniors and students, (718) 482-3332

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