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Impossible Marriage
a Comedy
by Beth Henley

COMPANY : Atlanta Classical Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 14th Street Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 340

SHOWING : May 23, 2002 - June 16, 2002



Enjoy a blissful evening in the garden of a Savannah estate as Henley's delightfully eccentric characters plot, plan, and plead to stop young Pandora's marriage... to an artist.

Director Topher Payne
Stage Manager Joshua Minney
Kandall Pat Bell
Edvard Sonny Goff
Floral Sara Reiss
Jonsey Scott Shelfer
Pandora Bethalyn Staples
Reverend Larence Spencer G. Stephens
Sidney JAS Sustrich
Jonsey Mark Wallace
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by Dedalus
Monday, June 3, 2002
I have to confess that, even though I thoroughly enjoyed ACT’s production of Beth Henley’s “Impossible Marriage,” I do have to echo the criticisms that have made by other contributors to this forum. The production was marred (but not fatally) by the performance of Bethalyn Staples as Pandora, and by a few staging choices made by director Topher Payne.

Beth Henley’s plays are slice-of-eccentricity comedies that fully work only when grounded in some sort of actual human possibility. We have to believe these are real people, or the plays fall apart. Ms. Staples was so mannered and so stilted, her eccentricity came across as bad acting. A more charitable person than myself could say (and, in the case of a friend of mine, DID say) that she was taking a defensible surrealist approach that purposefully removed Pandora from the realm of the human. If this is the case, the choice did not mesh with the rest of the production, and the director needs to take some blame for not better orchestrating the actors.

And, make no mistake, the other actors are wonderful. Sara Reiss, in a role written specifically for Holly Hunter, carries the play, nailing not only the absurdity of her character, but also her grounding. We believe she is real, in spite of all the goofy things she does. JAS Sustrich, playing much the same character he did in Soulstice’s “Ivanov,” here does much better – it is a role that could easily cross the line to caricature and grotesquerie, but Mr. Sustrich never crosses that line. He is especially effective in the closing moments of the play, a gentle sequence with Pat Bell’s marvelous Mother-of-the-Bride that, in itself, boldly overturns all the “impossible marriage” theme and says, in essence, “Yes, marriage may be impossible, but it can be less impossible than the alternative.” I loved this moment, and it saved the entire play for me. Also good were Spencer Stephens’ reverend and Sonny Goff’s groom, although in the latter’s case, I could have tolerated more of the poet’s love of language so evident in how that character was written. And Mark Wallace’s Jonsey had some unconvincing moments, although I did like his mantra “I’m good-looking” delivered as if it were something he was always told, rather than something he actually believed.

The staging in 14th Street’s small 3rd stage area appeared as if director Toper Payne had no experience with staging plays in the round, something I understand is not the case. Too often, sight lines are blocked by actor’s butts for overlong stretches of time. This is especially noticeable in the climatic wedding scene when all action and all reaction was totally hidden on my side of the theatre; in fact, I could not imagine a place in the theatre where that particular moment would have worked as it was staged. No use was made of aisle areas or “inside circles.” In the case of major plot moments, this can prove fatal.

But, in spite of all the nasty things I’ve said here, I enjoyed the play a lot. I’d only read it before, and I found myself laughing a lot more seeing it than I did reading it. It came across as less shallow, and more interesting that it did when I read it. This is entirely due to the efforts of the actors and the production.

--- Brad Rudy (
A Lovely Escape
by MamaLass
Monday, June 3, 2002
There are plays meant to challenge the viewer and cause a series of huge internal discoveries. And then there are the plays where you sink into your chair and enjoy a respite from the world. Both are important, and both are difficult to acheive. In the second category, I felt it at the recent productions of "Pygmalion", "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and, just recently, "Impossible Marriage". I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was a sweet escape into a Southern garden filled with bodice-ripping and intrigue, and the contentment of knowing it will all work out just fine in the end. I was pleased. Time and money well-spent. Good show. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
A great show
by PlanetJanet
Friday, May 31, 2002
Beached Wails was the first play I'd seen Atlanta Classical Theatre do, and I saw it twice and loved it. I went to see Impossible Marriage because I thought Topher Payne had written it as well, but learned from the program he had directed it. We had a wonderful time. The whole cast was very funny, but the actress playing Floral, Sara Reiss, is the best thing in the play. If there was one small thing I would change it would be the way Pandora is played sometimes, but that is all. There was a big audience in the small theatre the night we were there, and everyone laughed and enjoyed the play. Don't listen to JHodge, if you're looking for a funny play, go see this show!! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Not Impossible, but Imperfect
by JHodge
Friday, May 31, 2002
The good things about "Impossible Marriage": Spencer Stevens, Pat Bell, Sarah Reiss, and, mostly, Mark Wallace and JAS Sustrich, depenfing on who they're onstage with. Their performances make a fluffy, mannered script interesting and fun for the audience. The central conflict of the show revolves around a rather obvious, but still fun, problem of Reiss' character. The trouble with that is, I don't think it's supposed to be. I think I was supposed to care about the whole risk of the marriage being called off, but frankly, I didn't. The blame on this is shared by Beth Henley, the actors playing the bride and groom, and the director, Topher Payne. Topher was there the night I came. I noticed he didn't watch. Maybe he's too young for all this, but that seems like an easy excuse, since I've been told (too often) his writing belies his youth. There is a style problem with this show. Half the cast appears to be performing in a different interpretation of the show. One half is in a great production. The other half is in a mediocre farce. Bottom line- the strength of the majority covers for the weaknesses of the few, but it leaves you wanting more than you get. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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