Imagine Lucy Riccardo and Ethel Mertz, or perhaps more appropriately Ab Fab's Edina and Patsy, as financially strapped home caregivers, who discover that the 84-year-old man that they're tending to has unexpectedly passed away in the bathroom.
What's to become of the pension money they withdraw on his behalf from the ATM each week and further, how about that windfall that's come from a bet he placed on a horse a few days before his death? The answer to these questions comes in comedic form in Marie Jones' lightly amusing, but overextended, Fly Me to the Moon at 59E59 Theaters.
Jones, who's also directed this two-character show, establishes the ways in which Frances (Katie Tumelty) and Loretta (Tara Lynne O'Neill) can scheme as they go about their morning routine in the small bedroom (Niall Rea provides the production's simply effective design) belonging to Davy McGee, unaware that he has gone to his maker in the loo.
Frances, the spikier of the two, can't hide her pride about the strides her (unseen) son Jason is making as an entrepreneur: he's selling illegally copied DVDs to friends and neighbors, including one that Loretta orders for her son.
Frances' indictment of the school system as she describes her child's skills, only further establishes the discontent that both women feel about the world at large. She feels that his having been expelled from school at age 11 (for hawking booze and cigarettes) was simply wrongheaded and shortsighted. As she says, "They never encouraged the business man in him."
Given all of this, along with the financial demands both women are facing – Loretta, whose bricklayer husband is out of work, needs cash to send her daughter on a school trip to Euro Disney and both are pining to join a pal for a getaway to Barcelona – it's little wonder that once they discover Davy has met his maker, that the conniving begins and then, escalates, ultimately to ludicrously implausible heights.
Fortunately, audiences will often find themselves tickled by Tumelty and O'Neill's thoroughly winning performances and the terrific chemistry that they share. Tumelty imbues Frances with an edge of desperation that's tempered by a softness that helps to make each of the character's designs for enriching herself and Loretta seem almost entirely necessary, but never mean-spirited.
The actress also proves to be a deft physical comedienne during a hysterical sequence in which Frances must maneuver the late Davy's wheelchair across the stage using only one arm (as she pretends to be her semi-paralyzed charge).
O'Neill, a queen of the double and triple take, makes Frances a sweet, and initially guileless, charmer and shades her performance with a fluttery earthiness that's a terrific compliment to Tumlety's wilier turn. And when Loretta explains the truly dire straits she's facing at home, O'Neill's work has a depth of emotion and sadness that's undeniably touching.
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