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This “Crumble” Fumbles

Missing elements and uneven direction mar the latest from Firehouse.

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Many of the right ingredients go into the Firehouse Theatre Project's production of the interestingly titled “Crumble (Lay me Down Justin Timberlake),” but the show ends up half-baked. Sheila Callaghan's story of disintegrated relationships following a family tragedy is quirky and sometimes engaging. But missing scenic elements and spotty direction ruin any prospects of a full-course evening at the theater. 

The play opens near the anniversary of the death of a husband and father who died in a freak Christmas tree accident. He was the fix-it person who kept the family balanced and its aged apartment (personified by Frank Creasy) in repair. The literal crumbling of the apartment signifies the state of the remaining family members, a mother (Jen Meharg) and a daughter Janice (Christina Billew). The set is supposed to depict an elegant Victorian mansion converted into now-shabby apartments. Key design details such as tall windows and fancy doors that would suggest old grandeur are not to be found, leaving the audience to suspend disbelief on an important vehicle of the play. Also missing are needed kitchen props for the gourmet chef, Mother, to feign creation of the amazing meals she describes in her lines. The design is simply awkward and audience members seated far house left miss almost a quarter of the action because of a poorly placed set wall.

Three of the actors never quite pass muster with their roles. Based on the level of work these actors usually put out, it seems to be direction that's lacking. Billew, however, puts in a wonderful performance as the young teen who fantasizes about Justin Timberlake and ending the pain of grief for herself and her mother. She pouts, curses and dances her way into the hearts of the audience members. Matt Hackman also shines as the father, as J.T., and as an Indiana Jones-clad Harrison Ford. He sends the audience into giggles when Janice moons, “Justin Timberlake, you're magic,” and he responds with a confident, “I am.”

Despite the flaws, see this one for the novelty -- just make sure your seats are far enough house right.

“Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake)” plays on selected dates through March 20 at the Firehouse Theatre.  Tickets are $10-$25. Information by visiting firehousetheatre.org or by calling 355-2001.

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