The press release hails Sealed for Freshness, the new Tupperware comedy written and directed by Doug Stone as “a hilarious journey of self discovery.” Don’t be taken in as there is nothing even remotely hilarious about this tasteless tale. Everything about the evening including the script, the set, the costumes and most definitely the direction is decidedly tacky. Sure you will laugh at the absurdity that anything about the play resembles a journey of self discovery, and you will roll your eyes in horror all the while laughing. No doubt there is an audience for this sort of exaggerated gross humor that pokes fun at five totally unconscious women and their attempts to spice up their lives with a Tupperware party, but I doubt that audience spends much time in a real live theatre.
The story takes us back to a typical mid west suburb circa 1968 where our host Bonnie Kapica (Jennifer Dorr White) is preparing for a Tupperware party. Her husband (Brian Dykstra) departs for bowling after spilling a gallon of gasoline in the driveway, which you immediately know is the set up for a big second act explosion. When the friends; a cantankerous obese pregnant woman Sinclair (J.J. Van Name), her perfect sister Jean (Nancy Hornback), a dumb blonde Tracy (Kate Vandevender), and the regional Tupperware saleswoman Diane (Patricia Dalen) arrive, the drinks begin to flow and tongues loosen. We get sarcastic wisecracks, teary confrontations, hidden secrets and new age self affirmations delivered under the guise of female bonding. The women are caricatures that are so broad they come off more like cartoons than flesh and blood people.
The 43 year old playwright Doug Stone, a former stand-up comedian, admits he has only read “a handful of plays in his lifetime,” and herein lies one the evening’s biggest problems. The play itself is really an extended sketch, like something you might have seen on an old Carol Burnette TV show, which was popular roughly about the same time period that Mr. Stone’s play represents. Then there is the dialogue, which doesn’t flow from fully fleshed out characters or situations, but exists rather as set ups for the crass jokes, which land like a series of one liners designed to lampoon his helpless creations, the women. Further, the playwright describes his writing style as “sitcom with more of an edge,” giving a good concept of his take on “reality.” His idea of an edge is to have a grossly overweight pregnant woman blow farts, or have her remove her size 44 underwear in full sight of the other characters as well as the audience, or have the women indulge in a lot of vagina talk.
Another big problem is Mr. Stone has decided not only to direct, but also to produce the evening as well. The result is an exaggerated vulgar style that pervades the entire proceedings with an extremely narrow vision. Playwrights directing their own works rarely, if ever, succeed. Theatre is intended as collaboration and the director often brings a fresh point of view that will complement the playwright’s ideas adding nuance and dimension. Mr. Stone permitting Doug Stone to direct has resulted in insulting parodies and stridently broad performances, from the competent cast that is almost embarrassing.
You could still have a good time at Sealed for Freshness if it sounds like your cup of tea, or if you already have tickets. Here’s the drill! Lighten up and suspend all expectations of what you believe the Theatre is about and laugh at the folly of it all, the sheer desperation that everyone involved would allow themselves to look so absolutely ludicrous, and remember the playwright said, “I write plays for people who hate theatre.”
gordin & christiano
Originally Published in Dan's Papers
Sealed for Freshness opened at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, on February 24, 2007. Tickets may be purchased at Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200 or the theatre box office.