Sealed For Freshness

Reviewed By: Philip Hopkins

Sealed For Freshness is a time-capsule play that really works. A hilarious and inventive treatment of a topic that's not wholly fresh -- repressed '60s housewives questioning their lives -- the show has been impeccably prepared and executed like a gourmet version of a standard dish, a slice of sweetly sour. With echoes of plays such as Doug Field's Down South, which ran at the Rattlestick two years ago, Sealed For Freshness stands out as the best of its kind that I've seen.

Author-director Doug Stone keeps audiences in stitches with this production, but there's more to the play than its humor. The highest compliment to Stone's efforts is that he's written female characters which his stellar cast clearly take great pleasure in playing. Walking the line between maudlin and funny, between caricature and portrait, and between farce and feeling is difficult; but, for the most part, the play and the production manage to do just that.

The Sealed For Freshness actors seem so grateful for decently written parts and assured direction that their performances generate real laughter in each other onstage, taking them close to those giddy Carol Burnett Show moments when none of the players could keep a straight face and the audience loved watching them lose it. At performance I attended, one spectator was so overcome laughter that she had to choke through the joke-free moments to keep from disrupting the show. Bring your tongue depressors and your asthma medication!

Sealed For Freshness catches us off guard by taking into Diane's life rather than Bonnie's; we wonder why only woman whose husband we've met doesn't get to unpack more of her baggage. But the show's central revelations are of Diane and the resentful Sinclaire, as Bonnie and Jean try to keep Sinclaire from provoking and everyone else. J.J. Van Name's performance as Sinclaire is priceless -- she's a Rizzo with no Pink Ladies, just plastic ladies who condemn her smoking, her drinking, and her pain. Van Name makes Sinclaire's ferocity real, her schadenfreude hilarious, and her desperation palpable.

That the over-the-top situation that develops in the play's final moments becomes a device for easy resolution easily forgiven. With terrific costumes by Rob Bevenger and Derk Lockwood, and admirable performances all around, this show does something only live comedy can do: It makes its audiences loopy with giddiness.