In the world today, the world of reality TV, many viewers watch a show called “Hoarders” where homes are visited and amazing items, mostly garbage, are found from floor to ceiling. The original “hoarders” were the Collyer brothers, who never threw anything away. This was back in the 1920′s and in Mark Saltzman’s play, “Clutter” The true story of the Collyer Brothers, now on stage at The Greenhouse Theater Center, we get a glimpse into the story based on their lives. These were wealthy young men, residing in a Fifth Avenue mansion in Harlem ( during a different time, of course) who became collecters of everything and later one is found dead, the other missing. It is assumed that the missing brother, Langley ( a marvelous performance by Andrew J. Pond, who handles comedy with the best and has truly matured as a character actor) is responsible for his older brother’s death. Edward Kuffert takes on the role of Homer and the chemistry between these two actors is very strong. In fact, almost “brotherly”!
The brothers have been written about before and while noone knows what really went on in this home filled with garbage, but over the years, they became a mystery to the area residents and Saltzman has created very believable characters making every word and action of these men very real. They were wealthy men who were never forced to do any work as their family had wealth. Their father was a Doctor and had many holdings which were truned over to them. Homer had a college degree ( Law) and Langley was a pianist who never felt that he was as good as he wanted to be.
In this two hour production, skillfully directed by Wayne Mell, Saltzman begins the story in 1947 and through flashbacks leads on the journey of these two folklore characters. The officer in charge of the investigation of the death of Homer is Sgt. Reilly Dolan ( deftly handled by Joe Mack) who is working with his brother Kevin ( Michael J. Bullaro) who has just returned from being a prisoner of War and has some very personal problems. In fact, the relationship between these brothers is not as solid as that of the Collyers. As we flash back and forth from investigation to who killed Homer and the lives of the brothers, many characters come into the story, all played by two sensational character actors, Stephen M. Genovese and Tim Walsh. These gentlemen are so strong in bringing these small characters to life, that they were given ovations for some of their brilliant scenes – well deserved I might add!
I will not reveal the truth about Langley’s dissappearance after Homer’s death as I do not want to ruin the story for you, but is is one heck of a mystery solved. The set by Andrei Onegin is very clever. Rememebr, this is a small, very intimate space ( the old Victory Gardens) so making us visualize a mansion filled with pianos, musical instruments, in fact tons of junks, is not an easy task, but Onegin does a great job. The use of a scrim allows the house to be viewed and when the action is that of the police station or othe rlocaltions, the back wall is dark. The propmaster, Mary O’Dowd deserves a standing ovation for the glorious “stuff” she has amassed for this production and Bill Morey’s costumes are just right for the period.
This is a definite study of human behavior and so MadKap Productions ( a new theater company) will have some after show “talkbacks” featuring Dr. Scott Kaplan, a Psychologist as the moderator. These will take place on Thursdays. For more info, visit www.greenhousetheater.org. In watching this production, many people will feel that “there but for the grace of God, go I”, as many of us are “savers”, but if we can’t control this emotion and our lives are not happy, this could happen to anyone. One might ask if today’s storage lockers are what might be saving others from a fate similar to that of the Collyer Brothers.
“Clutter” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through March 11th with performances as follows:
Thursday,Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $40 ( $15 for students, $30 for seniors) and groups $30-$35) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-404-7336 or online at www.greenhousetheater.org