Friday, November 17, 2017

Moving Day

From left, Tim Liu, Stephanie Altholz and
Kurt Johnson perform in B Street Theatre's
production of “A Moving Day.”
Rudy Meyers Photography/Courtesy photo
It is deliciously ironic that the very last production to be presented at the current B Street Theatre location — before the company’s move to its new digs, “The Sofia,” at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue, at the end of the year — is a play called “A Moving Day,” by Dave Pierini and Buck Busfield.
(“Dave did the writing; I fixed the commas,” Busfield joked.)

Though it’s barely past Halloween, this is another B Street original Christmas production, a 23-year old tradition. The company is going out with a bang with this funny, yet moving story, which finds its inspiration in the tradition of “moving day” in Canada, the date on which most residential leases begin. By the city’s estimate, about 115,000 of Montreal’s 1.6 million residents relocate every July.

The day before moving day, all previous leases end and occupants must be out of their homes, or face confrontation with the police. “Moving day” also became common in places like New York and Ohio.

And so the play “A Moving Day” is set in Cleveland where two movers, Frank (Kurt Johnson) and Casey (Tim Liu), are packing up a house while engaging in a spirited discussion about Casey’s unsuccessful love life. Their conversation is interrupted now and then by phone calls from Frank’s wife, who has just left Frank to live with her sister, but is willing to get together with him to discuss things, if he can make it to a certain location at a certain time.

As the movers are about to remove the second stack of boxes, they are surprised by the appearance of Patrick (Greg Alexander), who has apparently been upstairs, and announces that this used to be his house and he needs to postpone the moving for one more day until he can search the house for something special he left behind. Though he has not lived in the house for many years, it is still his family home.

While Frank and Casey attempt to remain uninvolved, Patrick’s arguments become very persuasive and they have to force themselves to continue moving boxes.

When only Casey is on stage, a young girl, who calls herself Mouse (Stephanie Altholz), wanders in. She is apparently homeless and also has been crashing in the house; she hopes they will postpone the move.

Patrick and Mouse work together to tear the house apart looking for the missing object that Patrick associates with his late sister and that has great sentimental value for him.

Jamie Jones makes a brief walk-on appearance (perhaps so the actress can appear in B Street’s last production in the old theater) as Frank’s wife.

As Patrick settles in more firmly, determined to have one last Christmas in his family home, and the movers’ resolve wavers, the audience waits to see how it’s all going to play out, perhaps not suspecting the clever twist in the plot.

With the caliber of actors in this play, most B Street regulars, it can’t help but be outstanding. Tim Liu appears to be new to B Street, but he is excellent as the anguished Casey, having been rejected (“ghosted,” as he puts it) by so many other women, trying to make his case with Mouse.

This is a comedy with warm dramatic overtones and sets the stage for the upcoming holiday season — though playing Christmas carols in the lobby before Thanksgiving is a bit unsettling.

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