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A CurtainUp Review
Sealed for Freshness
Tupperware is not only changing the way women think about the kitchen. It's changing the way women think about themselves. ---Diane Whettlaufer

Patricia Dalen one of the tupperware partygoers in Sealed For Freshness (Photo: Carol Rosegg.)
Sealed for Freshness isn't fresh at all. Stale would be a better word to describe the new play at New World Stages about a Tupperware party gone awry. It aims to please with a mixture of the comedy (lots of Tupperware jokes) and drama (unhappy marriages and maternal woes, for the most part). But the comedy lacks crispness and the drama rarely possesses much bite.

Comedy and theater neophyte Doug Stone has set his play in 1968 during the heyday of Tupperware parties. Hostess Bonnie (Jennifer Dorr White) invites a group of neighbors over for a party. The guest list: perky, rich Jean (Nancy Hornback). . .Jean's fat, nasty and pregnant sister Sinclair (J.J. Van Name), ditzy blonde Tracy Ann (the very screechy Kate Vandevender). . . new neighbor Diane (Patricia Dalen), who's made quite a career selling Tupperware, but at the expense of her marriage. Bonnie's husband (Brian Dykstra) also makes an appearance, but his presence simply serves to set off the undeniably female atmosphere. The mix of personalities and the number of martinis consumed lead to a great deal of absurd high jinks plus revelations of an equal number of secrets and insecurities.

The concept may have been a good one. After all, Desperate Housewives has shown that suburban unhappiness can be both funny and dramatic. However, the execution is unimpressive. Much of the humor is crass and a little embarrassing (for example, a long gag about Sinclair's pregnancy-related gas, stories about exploding genitalia, and a sequence about the hazards of bra-burning). And of course, there are the endless Tupperware jokes.

Stone has directed the actors play the comedy broadly, with a heavy emphasis on the physical and the obvious. The unflattering wigs some of them must wear don't help. All the characters are types — dumb blonde, aging trophy wife, the lonely divorcee— rather than real people. This becomes especially problematic when they're required to switch from comic to dramatic.

The problems are no fresher than the characters experiencing them, with Sealed for Freshness failing to add anything new to the well-mined pllight of the miserable housewife. The most interesting character of the group is Sinclair Benevente ( J.J. Van Name) whose bitterness and sarcasm injects a modern skepticism into the proceedings. Van Name's eye-rolling delivery seemed to give voice to my own irritation with the play itself. However, her explosive rant on her unhappy motherhood later in the play, however, was less effective.

The major problem with Sealed for Freshness is that whether in its broad comedy or confessional drama mode, it never evokes a sense that we're watching a group of real women. Even Rob Odorisio's wood-paneled set feels like something out of a sitcom like The Brady Bunch rather than a home where someone would actually live.

The device of bringing a group of people together for some sort of festive event and liquoring them up to bring out all their secrets has often proved that it could be effective. But it's a device that is fraught with the danger of being done in by its predictability. Sealed for Freshness falls into that trap.

Written and directed by Doug Stone
Cast: Patricia Dalen (Diane Whettlaufer), Brian Dykstra (Richard Kapica), Jennifer Door White (Bonnie Kapica), Nancy Hornback (Jean Pawlicki), Kate Vandevender (Tracy Ann McClain), J.J. Van Name (Sinclair Benevente) (Sinclair Benevente)
Set Design: Rob Odorisio
Costume Design: Rob Bevenger
Lighting Design: Traci Klainer
Sound Design: Ken Hypes
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, includes one
New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street,
From 2/15/07; opening night 2/24/06
To March 4:Tues to Sat @ 8pm; Sat @ 2 and 8pm; Sun @ 3 and 7:30 pm. From March 6: Tues to Sat @ 8pm; Wednesday and Sat @ 2 pm; Sun @ 3 pm
Tickets: $60
Reviewed Julia Furay based on February 22 performance
broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
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