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Butterflies Are Free
a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY :
by Leonard Gershe

COMPANY : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Stage Door Players [WEBSITE]
ID# 3903

SHOWING : March 18, 2011 - April 10, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Don Baker has been blind since birth, his overprotective mother following his every move. When he finally decides to take his own apartment in Manhattan and pursue his songwriting ambitions, and meets his kooky, sexy actress neighbor Jill, Mrs. Baker's controlling instincts go into overdrive with hilariously touching results.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Alan Kilpatrick
Sound Design Dan Bauman
Production/Stage Manager Courtney Loner
Costume Design Tony Smithey
Scenic Design Chuck Welcome
Lighting Design John David Williams
Don Baker Josh Donahue
Jill Tanner Megan Hayes
Mrs. Baker Jo Howarth
Ralph Joshua Williams
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Outta Sight, Man!
by Dedalus
Thursday, May 5, 2011
4.5

“I only want to be free. The butterflies are free.”
-- Charles Dickens

The 1960’s was a time of people (especially young people) making new definitions of freedom and engaging in new struggles to find or express that freedom. Kids seeking freedom from their parents, young men seeking freedom from being drafted into a war they did not support, wives seeking freedom from their husbands, the disenfranchised seeking freedom from entrenched cultural oppression, the “counterculture” seeking freedom from “the establishment.” And that’s just skimming the surface of the thousands of individual struggles going on around the country, around the world, around the home.

In his 1969 romantic comedy, “Butterflies are Free,” Leonard Gershe took us into the sightless world of Don Baker, a young blind man fighting for his freedom from his over-protective mother, a writer of saccharine children’s books about a young blind super-boy (“Donnie Dark”). When he meets his new neighbor, “free spirit” Jill Tanner, it is “love at first touch,” and the battle lines are drawn for what will be a fight for the soul of young Mr. Baker.

In Stage Door Players’ marvelous production of the play, Josh Donahue plays Don as a gentle man, hoping to become a musician, sensitive to the eddies of conflict and character that threaten to submerge him. He’s confident and optimistic within the well-memorized confines of his New York apartment, even to the point of being able to successfully navigate a phone cord around his unseen furniture. However, when things begin to fray around the edges, when furniture gets moved or ashtrays “disappear,” or friends prove unreliable, he becomes a little boy lost, curling on the floor and crying for his mother.

Megan Hayes, on the other hand, is a force of nature, a “bull in the china shop” crashing into Don’s life and taking him on an emotional; roller coaster that could take him to the skies or crash him into a broken heap. She embraces all the latest fads to varying degrees, but, in the final analysis, has an insecurity about getting too close that is almost as crippling as Don’s blindness. Ms. Hayes is vibrant and appealing and commands the stage every time she comes on.

And, as Don’s mother (“Mrs. Baker” – it’s ALWAYS “Mrs. Baker’), Jo Howarth is suffocating and supporting, over-bearing and irritating. It’s up to her to resolve Don’s dilemma, and she does it in a way that is as surprising as it is satisfying. I loved everything Ms. Howarth did here, and, it’s especially notable that at no time did she remind me of Eileen Heckart, who won an Oscar for playing this role in the 1972 film version (and which I saw three times in one week while I was off at College).

I really liked how this production evoked the era without wallowing in it. More in tune with the “pop music” aspects of the period (as opposed to the “soul” or “folk” or “psychedelic” musical aspects), it successfully pokes fun at the cultural excesses of the time, while giving equal respect to both sides of the generational struggles. Yes, the “off Broadway” director Ralph (Josh Williams) is pretentious and arrogant, but he’s also fully committed to his “vision,” to making full use of the new freedoms not available mere months before.

I liked how the set (by Chuck Welcome) created a cheap (but suspiciously spacious) lower Manhattan apartment, how the furnishings with their thrown-together feel and flea-market tattiness seemed familiar and, oddly comforting. I liked how the evocative costumes (designed by Tony Smithey) took me back to my teenage years (and my own ridiculously feeble attempts to be “with it”), and the large reel-to-reel tape deck looked like the exact same model I used in college sound design gigs.

But, in the final analysis, this production soars on the wings of Mr. Donahue and Ms. Hayes. Alone on stage for (almost) the entire first act, their “meet cute” and “fall in love fast” journey is funny and credible. They work beautifully well together (too well, perhaps – I think I imagined Mr. Donahue actually making eye contact with Ms. Hayes once or twice). And, they made it believable that this entire relationship, its birth, deepening, consummation, doubt, conflict, and resolution occurs in less than a day. Talk about “Doing your own thing NOW!”

So, all Don wants is to be as free as a butterfly. Now that the decades have taken off my rose-colored glasses it’s easy for me to say that butterflies are free only until they meet a hungry bird or a fanatical lepidopterist. It’s nice to see that in a play written at the time, Mr. Gershe acknowledges that Don can only be free until he meets rejection and heartbreak. Unless, of course, his mother unpins him from her Scarsdale wall display and lets him fly.

-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com)

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Knowing nothing about thi show, I thought ...
by Stages4me
Monday, March 21, 2011
4.5
I have to preface my review by saying I've never seen the movie and I didn't know anything more than the premise, so I went in with no expectations. That is always fun because I don’t catch myself comparing the current production to previous. That said … I really liked this show!

Great Job across the board to the actors. Both my husband and I felt Megan Hayes was the standout, but all performances shined. Ms. Hayes was indeed “kooky and sexy” as Jill and fun to watch. Kudos to Josh Donahue for convincingly pulling being blind. I have to imagine that takes a lot of effort, yet he did so effortlessly. Jo Howarth did a great job and yes, I did cry a bit in the second act.

Great Job on the technical aspects as well. Sets were good, costumes were good … all kinds of good in this production. We have not seen a lot of shows at Stage Door Players, but this surely will entice us to do so more often.
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Excellent Production!
by jabberwk
Sunday, March 20, 2011
4.5
I have been to see all of the Stage Door Players productions this season and this show is, hands down, the best of the bunch.

Megan Hayes is delightful as the quirky Jill Tanner. She portrays a 60s flower child to perfection, with unrestrained abandon and believable naivete. She is not just acting the role of Jill - she becomes Jill as soon as she walks on stage and stays that way throughout. Josh Donahue in the role of blind Don Baker has great charm and subtlety and is a perfect match for his co-star. Their scenes together are a joy to watch as they keep the dialogue snappy and the action sharp. There is much sexual tension between the two but yet, during the scene in which they are wearing the least clothing, they appear the most innocent and childlike.

Jo Howarth in the supporting role of Mrs. Baker was particularly strong. Her scene with Donahue in the second act is, itself, worth the price of admission. It brought me and several other audience members to tears.

The set was terrific - a very believable late 60s/early 70s New York apartment, right down to the reel-to-reel tape player and period kitchen appliances.

All-in-all a great way to spend a few hours and support the arts in Atlanta. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Agree! by green2u
I hadn't seen this chestnut since the 70s when it was done to DEATH onstage and at high school speech competitions. I I thought back then it had extremely clever writing but I questioned whether it would hold up in the new millenium. Happily, it does! The writing remains solid, funny and moving. Stage Door Players wisely keeps the play in the 70s. As stated in the other reviews, acting and the set are terrific. I expect more productions of "Butterflies" in the ATL region thanks to this production.


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