Play review of "Yard Sale"

 Themes of trying to hold off financial ruin, fighting to preserve community and heritage, and simply trying to motivate young men to get to work all underlie the lighthearted fun of “Yard Sale,” presented this weekend by the Swink School.
Body type J: The script, a melodrama with just a hint of sci-fi, was written by Tim Kelly (1932-1998), whom Playbill notes was “thought to be the most-published playwright in America” and a specialist in educational theatre. Pioneer Drama Service of Englewood, Colorado “licenses about 3,000 Kelly productions worldwide every year,” including “Yard Sale” (1995).
The set makes good direct use of the low proscenium of the Multipurpose Room at the school. A considerable amount of clutter and furniture as stage dressing creates the suggestion of an elderly mansion, now operated as an apartment building and inhabited by college students. Lighting (teched by Jolene Carrica and Jasmine Gossett) made good use of sparkly costume pieces and kept focus on and shadows off the actors.
Mona Babbington wants to keep the doors of her family estate open, and Mackenzie Turner plays her sorrow and worry well against the backdrop of zaniness among most of the other characters. Bethany Horiuchi shows great intensity as niece Ann Babbington in wanting to help, while her brother Napoleon (with Rico Carale’s good comedic movement) gets himself in trouble in trying to help through as little effort as possible.
Like Molière, Kelly uses servants as a vehicle for mocking observations, and Jill Wallace does this sardonic style well as the “Hired Help” Pauline. Karly Krieger is likewise cutting as the cab driver. Kayla Bierbaum does a gentler but similar task as Nurse Scanlon, also filling one of the antagonist roles with her severe presence as Miss Crothers, university inspector.
Melodramatic villains who use money as an arrogant weapon are another theatrical classic; “Yard Sale” pits Hazel Hushabye (with Lisa Dittermore’s good sense of snark) against Scrooge-like Silas Price (in a well done nasally drawl by Levi Collins, contrasting with his role as one of the students). The biggest presence of all is probably Krieger’s second role as Virginia Daly, the grumpy neighbor that she plays in an amazing raspy growl of a voice (as good as Doc Hammer’s Dr. Girlfriend on “The Venture Brothers”).
Body type J: Other standard melodrama elements include a ‘woman of mystery’ (Daisy Plant), which homeschooler Jaydon Yeomans (also cast among the students) plays with excellent anxiety, and the inevitable characters searching for her: Ron Glacier, which Kyle Bierbaum does with good physical and verbal comedy rhythm, and Sherry Lawrence, whom Lauryn Pantoya provides with good contrasting earnestness.
Another good team pair are FBI Agents Withers, whom Alyssa Archuleta plays with ‘good cop’ optimism, and York, given with excellent seriousness by Kyle Hirakata. Police officers Crosby (homeschooler Morgan Ray, also playing a student) and Fazio (Kate Willhoite, also among the tour group) do well in the opposite pair dynamic, mirroring each other in style.
Body type J: Haley Volanos is another performer given double duty, first as the hilariously bored tour guide, and then with good separation the dignified attorney Leia Swipes. In true melodramatic style, a bolt from the blue character appears to make everything right again, at least if anyone will pay them attention once the craziness can reach a peak level. Lindsey Goodwin does a great comedic job as poor Mrs. Winthrop-Dimple being pushed off stage in one direction after another.
The rest of the cast play students, who serve the theatrical role of the ‘community.’ Kady Bierbaum, Brendan Lockhart (of Pioneer Christian School), Sophie Russell, Jacob Volanos, and Nikki Wilhoite perform well in this chorus function. Group dynamics like “ahhs” in unison or bursting into laughter are done very well, and doubling of parts covers the bases among tourists and yard sale shoppers.
Body type J: Volanos shows a perfect awkwardness for the scientist Calvin Gregg, while Bierbaum’s Candy Webb makes an entrance like Glinda from “Wicked.” Russell’s Judy Linseed gets the most energy of all, and is played well enough to keep up with her costumes, which from jacket to shoes to gasmask is saying something.
Body type J: Going into intermission, director Bonnie Grossen warned attendees with a smile to “get ready, because after this song plays, it’s Chicken Dance time, and we’ll need full audience participation.” Final tech rehearsal on Thursday had an audience of student performers from Crowley County, returning the visit that Swink paid to their production (also going on this weekend) earlier in the week.
A fun moment linking the history of Arkansas Valley school theatre departments happened when an “antique horse’s head” made an appearance. This prop had a past life as Bottom’s transformed head in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a production when Crowley School drama head Amy Hobbs, then a student, played Titania under Grossen’s direction.
Body type J: Stage Manager Jade Mora-Menges helps keep up a crisp, solid pace. The first act lasts for about an hour until intermission, after which the second act runs about forty-five minutes. “Yard Sale” shows at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations are requested, and may be made by calling or texting Shelly Grossen at 469-3124, or via the school message line at 384-8103.