Play­ers ver­sion of ‘But­terfin­gers An­gel’ spins quite the silly yarn

Pawtucket Times - - ARTS - By KATHIE RALEIGH

PROV­I­DENCE — Imag­ine a first-hand ac­count of the Christ­mas story as told by Mary and Joseph, two or­di­nary hu­man be­ings re­cruited for ex­tra­or­di­nary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

That’s the start­ing point for Wil­liam Gib­son’s funny, ab­surd and ul­ti­mately mov­ing play about the birth of Je­sus, a play with a ti­tle that has to be writ­ten down to be re­mem­bered: “The But­terfin­gers An­gel, Mary and Joseph, Herod the Nut, and the Slaugh­ter of 12 Hit Car­ols in a Pear Tree.”

Vince Petro­nio is di­rect­ing The Play­ers at the Barker Play­house in an amus­ing pro­duc­tion, done with an eye for the hu­man­ity and the hu­mor in the con­cept. As the lyrics in the carol that opens the show make clear, the play will “Fill the stage with bits of folly.”

In this telling, Mary is a rather ir­ri­tat­ing teenager who has de­cided mar­riage is not for her. Joseph is a hard-work­ing, sin­cere but ar­guably dull older man who longs for a fam­ily but fears that op­por­tu­nity has passed by.

The an­gel who comes to tell them of their im­pend­ing roles is a sin­cere but in­ept young man who gets his pre­science from a note­book filled with Bi­b­li­cal quotes.

The play fol­lows the story from the Bi­ble but with some non-Bi­b­li­cal em­bel­lish­ments, such as a singing tree, talk­ing an­i­mals, three not-so-wise men and three more young men who are Mary’s un­couth broth­ers. Herod, as men­tioned, is a nut.

The silli­ness per­sists, with hu­mor­ous di­a­logue from the play­wright and fun tweaks from the di­rec­tor, in­clud­ing a Rhode Is­land-ref­er­enced map used by the “wise” men. Yet in the fi­nal mo­ments, this play res­ur­rects the sig­nif­i­cance of the story in a mov­ing scene, well staged by Petro­nio and the Play­ers.

Sev­en­teen-year-old Phoebe Brown an­chors the show with her por­trayal of the sassy, out­spo­ken, and only in­ad­ver­tently thought­ful Mary. Roger Lem­lin is hu­mor­ous as the self-ef­fac­ing Joseph who, none­the­less, dis­cov­ers truths about him­self in con­nec­tion with his im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Ty­lar Jahumpa, a re­cent grad­u­ate of Dean Col­lege, gives an ap­peal­ing per­for­mance as the An­gel; he wants to do well, but he’s not quite up to her­ald-an­gel stan­dards.

Herod, on the other hand, is power hun­gry, and Kevin Thibault en­livens the stage with his per­for­mance. De­liv­er­ing a sur­pris­ing num­ber of laughs is a tree, well played – and sung – by An­drea Hell­man.

The sup­port­ing cast is large, and Petro­nio keeps every­one en­gaged in what’s hap­pen­ing on stage, from the slacker don­key, a petite Si­mone Pel­le­grino, to the innkeeper’s sar­donic daugh­ter, played by El­iz­a­beth Kin­nane. This show has a num­ber of roles for young ac­tors, a nice touch.

Over­all, hu­mor in “The But­terfin­gers An­gel …” tends to­ward the silly. As for the per­for­mances, how­ever, this pro­duc­tion is well done, and think­ing about Mary, Joseph et al as hu­man be­ings, with hu­man foibles, gives us an­other an­gle on the story of the na­tiv­ity.

Per­for­mances of “The But­terfin­gers An­gel …” con­tinue Dec. 7 through 9, Fri­day and Satur­day at 7:30 p.m., Sun­day at 2 p.m., at the Barker Play­house, 400 Ben­e­fit St. Tick­ets are $25 adults, $15 stu­dents with ID. For reser­va­tions, call the box of­fice at 401-2730590 or email play­[email protected] For in­for­ma­tion, visit play­er­

Photo cour­tesy of The Play­ers

The di­rec­tion­ally-chal­lenged wise men, from left, Stephen Hug, Mark Lima and Me­gan Rug­ge­rio.

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