By Jordan Wright (Photo/Teresa Wood)
Welcome to the wonderfully wacky world of Frannie Potts, who you’ll meet in “Loveland” at Arena Stage as part of the Kogod Cradle Series’ American New Voices Play Institute.
Frannie can’t contain herself, a woman who puts into words the unacceptable things we think but are conditioned by society not to say out loud. Her behavior is cringe-worthy. She’s the crazy lady with no filter, the one we usually dismiss.
That is, unless it’s the brainchild of writer/performer Ann Randolph, who leads us into Frannie’s world in this hilarious one-woman show.
Facing a Spartan stage — the props include a single chair and a shopping bag containing a few items — we join Frannie on a flight from Los Angeles to the Midwest, where she plans to attend her mother’s funeral. In Frannie’s world “dead” is dead, not “passed away” or “gone.” She has no tolerance for euphemisms or platitudes, and we love her all the more for it.
In a series of flashbacks, Randolph takes on a plethora of characters, not least of all is Frannie’s irreverent, chain-smoking mother, a wisecracking pistol of a woman who loves egging on her daughter.
In one of the skits, we watch as Frannie frantically tries to reach her mother at the Crane Lake Country Manor, a nursing home decidedly lacking in both the crane and lake departments. The irony of it all is compounded when she is subjected to the strains of Mozart’s “Requiem Mass for the Dead” while waiting on hold.
Randolph also channels the pilot, whom Frannie fantasizes about; a stereotypically snooty flight attendant; her seatmates, who are none too pleased to listen to her ramblings; a condescending funeral home saleswoman; a smarmy nursing home administrator; and a sanctimonious yoga instructor named Shanti. None are spared Frannie’s sharp-tongued and sharp-eyed retorts.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the screwball humor of Erma Bombeck, Ruth Buzzi or Lily Tomlin, the satirical black humor of British comedies like “The Wrong Box” or “The Loved One,” or the wry wit of Fran Lebowitz, “Loveland” is certain to tickle your funny bone.
Actually, it will downright rattle it.
Randolph has created Frannie, a hugely sympathetic character, with depth and dimension. And she does it with immense humor.
“Loveland” runs through April 13 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St., SE, Washington, D.C. For tickets and information call 202-488-3300 or visit www.arenastage.org.