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Footsteps Review

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'Footsteps' provides comic relief
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz.; Sep 14, 2001; Kathleen Allen;

We could use some hearty chuckles about now. And Invisible Theatre obliges with its season-opener, Ted Tally's "Little Footsteps."

But before the play began on Wednesday, a day after it had been scheduled to open, the company's Managing Artistic Director, Susan Claassen, took the stage. "The arts have always led the way in times of celebration and times of tragedy," she said, making note of the devastating events of Tuesday. "We hope tonight will be a respite from the horror."

With a passionate belief in the healing power of the arts, IT raised the curtain. In seconds, the full house did something few of us have been able to do recently: They relaxed. They smiled. They laughed out loud.

The comedy is about a young couple expecting their first child. But there are all sorts of problems inherent in that, not the least of which is that the parents-to-be, Ben and Joanie, are pretty childish themselves. The troubles their immaturity causes are laid out in delightful and sometimes dark detail in the first act, which ends with Joanie going home to mom.

The second act introduces us to her parents: Charlotte, an overbearing, uptight mother obsessed with appearances; and Gil, a father obsessed with making the perfect canape.

As they try to keep a noses-in-the-air front during the now-born child's christening party, all farcical hell breaks loose.

This Gail Fitzhugh-directed production became hyped up with energy whenever Kathleen Todd Erickson, who slipped into the Charlotte character as though it were a second skin, appeared.

The veteran actress, who has not performed on stage in more than a dozen years, could easily steal every scene she's in. But she's a generous thespian, intent on serving the production rather than her ego. Consequently, all the actors' performances perked up and became more finely tuned when she was on stage.

Not that the other actors didn't do just fine by themselves. Traci Hartley as Joanie had a perky innocence that served her character well, and Art Almquist gave his Ben a childlike demeanor that was as capable of charming as it was of annoying. Both of them, however, sharpened noticeably in their scenes with Erickson.

Tom Turner's father was perfectly distracted and gentle, obviously caring fiercely for his daughter and his wife.

Almquist's character was perhaps the most difficult. He was not easy to like. Ben's self-absorption and quick-to-attack side might have had a larger impact if it had been more balanced with his charming side.

But that's quibbling. The play is fun, light, and offers a couple of hours of relief. And that's absolutely essential these days.


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