Stamford Center for the Arts has landed no less an icon than Eartha Kitt for its self-produced “Expectations.” Unfortunately, the old pro only highlights the amateurism of this new, tedious and poorly crafted comedy that even drama clubs in Scarsdale would have passed on.
Kitt plays a cranky, stiff-spined elderly widow living alone, the kind of little old lady who all too frequently start sentences with lines like, “These kids nowadays couldn’t care less.” Her only friend is a ditzy neighbor of similar vintage (the resilient Susan Greenhill), who chatters on about just about anything that flits through her mind: the weather, cracked eggs, cell phones, an upcoming cruise.
The early scenes show them coming and going to the supermarket and bickering. While waiting for a bus, they meet and befriend a married young pregnant woman (Christine Albright).
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The intention might have been “Golden Girls Plus One,” but the result is a work that would look underdeveloped even on cable access. Its dialogue is insipid; the laughs are lame; the plot is predictable — the young woman has child-rearing and marital problems, a husband dies unexpectedly, there’s a hip operation, the elderly women move in together and eventually take in their young friend who has left her husband.
There are plenty of cliches present, but basic craft is absent, and the whole thing is not well guided by director George E. Moredock III, also artistic director of the Connecticut presenting house.
Scenes begin with audio announcement, presumably Edith’s son who works for the Weather Channel, describing seasonal changes to indicate time passing (as if the projections of green trees, fall foliage and snowy landscapes weren’t enough). Scenes end not with a joke, revelation or with any kind of snap, but rather with lines like, “The bus is coming,” followed by lights dimming, signifying the scene is over; the actors exit the stage as a stagehand arrives to position a prop for the next vignette.
What happens in between is endless, enlivened solely by the plucky cast.
At 78, Kitt is in fine shape, performs admirably and gives the role distinction beyond the page, infusing the production with some oomph by her mere presence and her distinctive vocal growl. There’s an early moment when a banana break leads the two older women to sing the Chiquita Banana jingle and dance around. For an instant, all ears perk up to savor Kitt’s remarkable singing style and the newfound joy onstage. But then the moment ends, expectations are dashed and it’s back to the bus stop.