By Jennifer Mustoe
I went to the closing night of Lawn Ornaments, part of a Writer’s Theater project at The Echo Theater in Provo. The Echo’s mission is to give new playwrights a chance to produce their works, and Lawn Ornaments, by Mark Wiesenberg, is one such work.
The first thing that happens in this funny play is Mark himself comes out and gives away gaudy lawn ornaments to several audience members. This is a fun warm up, though it went on a little long, as the curtain time was also delayed.
The plot is very simple: we have a couple, Arthur, deftly played by Scott E. Tarbet and Mildred, sweetly played by Ruthanne Bridges. Arthur is a nice husband and father, Mildred is a forgetful, funny wife and mother. They have a son, Peter, age 30, played by Adam Broud, and two children who are angels: Adam (Devin Malone) and Valerie (Lexi Barkle.) Finishing out the cast are Todd Paul Brown, whose comical, perfect timing performance as annoyed (by the lawn ornaments) neighbor Walter Peterson was the best in the show. Sarah, the maybe girlfriend of Peter is played winningly by Emily Marie Bennett.
The two things that stand out for me in this play are this:
- There are many really funny lines. The audience got the jokes, all of which were very real to life and entertaining. As I said, Brown’s comedic timing and nuance were excellent, but the other cast members that had jokes did well, too.
- The lawn ornaments. The bringing out and putting away of each piece of sh–stuff (neighbor Walter’s “word”) was pretty funny. And the variety of pieces was delightful. I would have loved being part of the gathering of these items. I have rarely seen a sillier, funner set in a show.
Director Hannah Farr had her actors moving well and the synergy was mostly there. But the play wasn’t as tight as I’d like and it was about 15 minutes too long. This is because the play needed some editing and the actors needed to pick up the pace.
This production is clearly a labor of love, as Wiesenberg’s family were behind the scenes. It was also clearly a story that came from some real life experiences that the playwright either experienced or saw. The story was very real and believable.
On the whole, the production was charming and sweet. But it was a good thing that few children were in the rather large audience. After an hour and a half (the play, with a way too long intermission went two hours and started late), I was VERY antsy for it to end.
I’d like to see more of Wiesenberg’s work. This was a good first effort and he obviously has a way with comedy.
The show closed Friday, so I’m not including any information about the wheres and whens and how muches.