‘The Viewing Room’ is funny enough to wake the dead

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Pat Beck as Chester Dumbrosky in “The Viewing Room”. The play continues until March 26. Courtesy/LALT

By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Message
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“The Viewing Room” is about getting a second chance and forgiving the imperfect people we love anyway. Mark Smith’s two-act play is set during a family wake for patriarch Chester Dumbrosky.

The show opened on March 11. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through March 26, with a matinee at 2 p.m. on March 20, at the Los Alamos Little Theater’s Performing Arts Center, 1670 Nectar St.

Admission is $18 general admission and $15 for seniors and students. Buy your tickets at the door (cash, check or card). Tickets are also available for presale at Boomerang Consignment and Retail (cash or check only).

The role of Chester is a tour de force for Los Alamos actress Pat Beck. Not only does she play a man, but she also plays a dead man. Chester was sent back to earth to make amends to his family for years of neglect and tantrums. He’s been so withdrawn that his kids and even his wife aren’t sure they know him at all.

Beck captures what made Chester so difficult to live with, but also helps the audience understand why he was the way he was and makes his desire to reconcile with his family come true. She proudly fulfills the role by casting Chester as a believable male member of the generation that came of age during World War II and suffered through the Depression. The baby boomers in the audience will probably see something from their dads, it’s Chester. Beck is hilarious as the stubborn patriarch of an eccentric clan.

Chester and his wife Florence (Terry Beery) and their five children, played by David Daniel, Teresa Bradford, Kelsey Dennison, Kelly Dolejsi and Seona Zimmermann make up the mourners. Daniel, like Matthew, has a lot of work to do. He’s on stage all the time and has to combine hilarity and frustration while riding this unruly family. The other adult children are all doing a good job with their roles.

Terry Beery seems to be channeling Edith Bunker into her role as Florence. She’s funny, but also warm and forgiving. A little dingbat, she radiates love for her children and even the difficult Chester has a place in her affections. Beery is gorgeous and totally believable as Florence.

The only non-family cast member is funeral director Jay Hollerback played by Thanos Stamatopouls. He is the only one who does not see or hear the deceased Chester. Stamatopouls makes the most of his time on stage. I particularly liked his trick of advancing the clock to get rid of the pesky Dumbrosky clan. Even Jay is eventually drawn into the family circle as the Dumbroskys celebrate their newfound closeness.

Director Wendy Caldwell Lanchier does a great job with a great cast that is almost always on stage. It’s her debut as a director, but she’s willing to take risks and it pays off.

The cast and director do a really good job with the material and it’s funny as heck. Go to the game. You will have a lot of fun.

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