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Actors are liars. Art and passion aside, the goal of an actor is to separate a member of an audience from their money. Luckily we like to be lied to, and even, at times, cheated. When the lies are bold enough, the stories exorbitant and the characters fantastic we’re even more likely to believe the grifter’s, or rather the playwright’s, fraud. Thus, the erudites of theater demand nothing less than the most experienced cons, the most agile swindlers and veteran thieves.

Every member of an audience has attended some show with a judgment already in mind. I’m guilty. Instead of Elder Hostages I expected Audience Hostages. I arrived at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre expecting waifish geriatrics and adult diapers. I was prepared for a 3 hour diatribe about society writing off it’s elders and leaving them to suffer their ailments alone, in tiny Social Security funded apartments. Today, my juvenile wisdom was schooled. Elder Hostages is an affirmation of the necessity of experience to prosperously extort an audience.

The play is comprised of only three independent scenes and rely heavily on the talent of two senior actors, Roger Jerome and David Crawford. In Mum’s the Word they are two hoary Irish brothers, one an alcoholic and the other wheel-chair bound, sharing an apartment. They are constantly at odds dueling wits or denying each other intimate knowledge of their family. It’s difficult to tell if they endearingly despise or abhorrently love one another. I was enamored. The dialogue was excellent and rife with quotes from literary elites – I struggled to keep up. I felt that the director had copped out casting two native Irish men to play two Irish men. Until the second scene, Night Song.

Roger Jerome transforms from abusive alcoholic to merciful executioner with no trace of his accent. I was a fool to think he was Irish; but I liked being the fool. Jerome plays Tim the weary husband of Sally, Susan McGregor-Laine, the victim of an Alzheimer’s like ailment that makes communication almost impossible. The entire scene is a mystery, will Tim’s frustration with his wife’s condition cause him to end their misery. Or will Tim solve Sally’s puzzle and return to bed in their tiny Lawrenceville apartment. In Wandering Angus David Crawford returns to play Angus, the seventh son of a seventh son. He is an enigma and healer who crutches in to a bus station and offers to cure Jack, Roger Jerome, and Betsy, Stevie Akers, of emphysema.

Unfortunately, the acting ruins the show. Not because the acting is bad but just the contrary. The acting is so good that every time you see Elder Hostages in the future you will expect Roger Jerome to tap his nose and taunt “Mum’s the word.” No one will brandish a revolver from within his walker’s bags like Crawford. The actor’s own the characters. Whether it be through personal experience or refined talent you will not get a more authentically false presentation of Elder Hostages than you will at this venue, at this time and most important with this cast.


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