‘Auld Lang Syne’ at Gloucester Stage Company

14Jul14

Play bends comedy, drama and mystery in one entertaining package

plum_snee2Widowed Mary Antonelli, a retired school teacher, and Joe LaCedra, a 64 year-old leg-breaker for the mob, are spending a stormy New Year’s Eve together in Mary’s South Boston home. But this is no social encounter. It’s strictly business. We learn that much in the opening seconds of Jack Neary’s Auld Lang Syne, currently on stage at the Gloucester Stage Company.

Joe (played by Richard Snee) has to drag the details out of Mary (Snee’s real life spouse, Paula Plum), who phoned him earlier and asked him to come over. It turns out that Mary made her late husband Arthur a promise on his deathbed and she needs to hire the gangster to carry out the job. She can’t do it herself, she explains, because, well, that would be a mortal sin. But a gangster like Joe can do it, she reasons, because, “People who don’t believe in heaven or hell are the kind that murder people.”

It seems that Mary and Joseph go back to their days at Southie’s Gate of Heaven Elementary School, although Joe doesn’t put it together until Mary reminds him of her Irish maiden name and how Joe used to tease her unmercifully in third grade.

plum_snee1Joe is appalled by the request put before him by this timid little Irish Catholic woman who can’t even handle his occasional taking of the Lord’s name in vain. Besides, it’s New Year’s Eve and he already has another “job” to do before heading out to his own New Year’s Eve celebration.

It turns out that Mary and Joe have more in common than just their Southie childhoods. Both are souls adrift who have suffered loss and estrangement at the hands of those they thought were closest to them.

On the lighter side, the characters’ discussions of religion prompt some pretty funny exchanges.

Joe, for example offers a simple theological proof for the non-existence of God.

“If God was God,” Joe posits, “do you think he would allow reality TV?”

Or this exchange:

MARY: There’s no sex in heaven.

JOE: Then why do they call it heaven?

(Plum and Snee, by the way, have no trouble with the South Boston dialect. Plum was raised in Lynn, MA and Snee lived in Southie for 20 years, so we natives are spared the cringe-inducing perfect storm of bad Boston accents that we all too frequently hear in Hollywood movies.)

plum_snee_vacuumOn the darker side, tragedy has Mary stuck in the past, and we can see it reflected in her console TV set and her ancient model vacuum cleaner. Joe is more in tune with the present, but after a life of screw-ups, he now finds himself as a senior citizen, forced to work for the children of his father’s mob associates.

In theater, as in life, the most carefully laid plans can go awry.

But Auld Lang Syne blends the best elements of comedy, drama and mystery in one entertaining package and shows us that in the end things have a way of working out for the best, although not always in the way we expected.

Auld Lang Syne runs through July 27 at the Gloucester Stage Company, 267 Main St., Gloucester, MA. Show times are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Saturday matinees are at 3 p.m.; and Sunday performances at 4 p.m. Purchase tickets online or phone the box office at 978-281-4433.

[AULD LANG SYNE, by Jack Neary. With Paula Plum and Richard Snee. Directed by Douglas Lockwood. Set Design by J. Michael Griggs. Costume Design by Molly H. Trainer. Props Master, Tom Rash. Stage Manager, Tareena Wimbish.]

Photos by Gary Ng.

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