Monstrous Love
The Ellsworth American – May 17, 2017 by Nan Lincoln

Author and Panel DiscussionWINTER HARBOR — Spring is not usually the season when vampires, werewolves and Frankenstein monsters come out to play.

But here at Schoodic Arts for All’s Hammond Hall the monsters have arrived early in Maine writer John Manderino’s play “Monstrous Love,” which the Meetinghouse Theatre Lab will premiere this coming weekend May 19-21.

The play is made up of seven stories, unrelated except that each involves monsters, murder and, oddly enough, love, and each is, well, a scream — screamingly funny that is.

According to director Cynthia Thayer, the play came to the attention of MTL when it was submitted by Manderino for a Maine playwriting contest. The playwright, who is the author of several books including “The True Meaning of Myrrh: A Christmas Day” (Ice Cube Press 2016) and “The H-Bomb and the Jesus Rock” (Chicago Academy Publishers, 2010), will attend the May 20 performance for a Q&A after the show.

Although “Monstrous Love” didn’t take the top prize in that contest, which included a reading of the winning play, Thayer says it was recognized as a perfect performance piece for MTL’s ensemble of actors.

“As a reading, it wouldn’t have worked so well,” she says, “But we were very excited about staging it.”

While the subject of the seven adult-themed plays (maybe don’t bring the kiddies) may be monsters, the stories themselves are deeply human, involving people and, in some cases things, just trying to do their best under difficult circumstances.

There’s the henpecked husband who responds to his wife’s nitpicking by turning into a werewolf and eating the neighbor’s cat; the beleaguered middle-aged daughter whose patience with an unpleasable elderly mother finally gives out; a lonely Bigfoot, who is fed up with being chased about the forest and photographed by gawkers and just wants to be left alone; a Frankenstein’s monster wannabe hiding from the world in his boyhood room while his passive-aggressive mother alternately pampers and torments him — proving who is the bona fide monster in the family.

Another young man named Phil can’t sustain a romantic relationship even with an inflatable doll, and in a dark Harry Potter twist, an adolescent boy discovers his true identity when his parents force him to grow up. Spoiler alert, it’s not a wizard.

The situations may be somewhat outrageous, and the playwright does seem to have a rather dim view of moms, but at their core they all have an element of truth. Anyone who has ever been misunderstood, bullied, spurned, nagged and just plain fed up with it all will recognize the murderous little monster lurking in our own psyches.

In their first full run-through on, somewhat ironically, Mother’s Day, the ensemble cast of Carl Karush, Cherie Magnello, Vanessa Hawkins, Brent Hutchins, Tony Rolf, Cathy Johnson, Eli Redfern, Cindy Robbins and David Dauphinee did a terrific job defining their character with both their dialogue and body language. Clearly each has embraced their inner werewolf, vampire, homicidal maniac and malevolent, let’s just say “witch,” and are having a ball letting it out of its coffin, cage or leg irons for a spin around the Hammond Hall stage.

The cast also stitches the various vignettes together with monster-themed songs — some of them very familiar, such as a great rendition of “The Monster Mash” with Hutchins doing Vincent Price proud, complete with doo-wop backup singers and dancers. Cherie Magnello fans will be pleased to hear she perform a lovely, haunting ballad and news hounds will enjoy a surprise appearance from a familiar political monstrosity.

Acorn Productions – Crying at Movies
January | 2011

Poster for Crying at MoviesAcorn Productions presents the 3rd play in the company’s inaugural Studio Series when Crying at Movies, a new John Manderino play based on his well-received memoir by the same name, premieres in the Acorn Studio Theater. In the piece, Tony recollects how his experiences watching leading ladies in movies as he matured affected his relationships with women. The play is as a tour-de-force for 2 actors, one of whom serves as narrator and remains on stage the entire play, while the other takes on the roles of more than a dozen women in his life. Acorn’s production is directed by Producing Director Michael Levine, and features Naked Shakespeare’s Paul Haley and former Acorn Shakespeare Ensemble member Kerry Rasor. Featuring references to well-known movies such as “La Dolce Vita,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “The Graduate,” the play serves up a feast of memories for movie fans through a series of comic scenes featuring romantic mishaps.

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