Butterflies are Free (and delightful)
Two months. Don Baker makes a deal with his overbearing mother — he has two months to prove he can make it on his own, or he has to leave his shabby, charming apartment in the East Village and return home to Scarsdale. Seems easy enough, but there’s one small thing to consider: he’s completely blind. (Ticket giveaway inside!)
Two months. Don Baker makes a deal with his overbearing mother — he has two months to prove he can make it on his own, or he has to leave his shabby, charming apartment in the East Village and return home to Scarsdale. Seems easy enough, but there’s one small thing to consider: he’s completely blind.
At the outset, a play about a blind guy trying to make his way in then-seedy 1969 New York City during the era of free love seems like a setup for either slapstick comedy or melodrama. But Butterflies are Free manages to skirt the line between the two with ease. This is due in large part to the strength of the small cast that shines under the taut direction of Billy Christopher Maupin.
Matthew Bloch plays Don Baker as a young man who just happens to be blind, refusing to be defined by his handicap. It can’t be easy to navigate an entire play with his eyes closed, but Bloch’s earnest, determined portrayal surely makes it seem like something we all could do if we tried.
When Don finds himself unexpectedly seduced by his next-door-neighbor, Jill Turner, we learn that he may be naïve, but he’s not certainly stupid. Jennifer Martin’s excellent comedic timing prevents her depiction of Jill from turning into a stereotypical dumb blonde floozy. She may be a ditz, but she’s a charming, likable one. Her morals may be as non-existent as the length of her skirt, and she’s certainly more than a little forward, but she clearly has Don’s best interests at heart.
When Don’s mother, Florence, played by Tamara Johnson, shows up a month earlier than expected, Jill stands up for him… even though she’s standing up for him in while wearing only underwear. Johnson is the standout among the cast. Her acerbic, witty delivery gives the second half of the play true comedic momentum as she slowly realizes her own blindness to her son’s true wishes.
Butterflies is a delightful, refreshing comedy with just enough drama to tug at your heartstrings. Smartly executed and full of absolutely charming performances, it’s a perfect way to spend a spring evening.
(NOTE: What would a play set in 1969 be without sexual references and cast members running around in their underpants? None of it seems gratuitous, and it doesn’t last for the whole play, but you may want to consider leaving the youngsters at home for this one. Unless you want to be like the lady next to us who had to try and explain the concept of an orgy to her eight-year-old…)
Butterflies Are Free is playing at Barksdale Theatre at Hanover Tavern through May 16. Tickets are $38 and can be purchased online (with a small fee) or by calling 804-282-2620.
We’ve got a pair of tickets good for any performance of Butterflies are Free! Enter to win the tickets here. The contest closes at noon on Wednesday, April 21.
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