Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Castaways Repertory Theatre Empty Closets

By • Jan 29th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Empty Closets by Dean A. Benjamin
Castaways Repertory Theatre
A.J. Ferlazzo Building, Woodbridge, VA
Through February 5th
2:20 with one intermission
$14/$11 Seniors and Students
Reviewed January 28th, 2011

Empty Closets is an original dramatic comedy about the secrets that families keep and what happens when they share them.

Castaways Repertory Theatre should be commended for choosing to produce an original play. It’s a shame that they couldn’t have chosen a play with better writing. While the general idea of a family’s secrets being exposed is interesting, and most every character in the play has at leat one secret, Empty Closets would have been much improved in a workshop setting instead of a complete production. Weaknesses of the script include too much emphasis on Richard’s secrets, a conclusion that winds up more quickly instead of sputtering to a stop, characters that lacked depth, and an over-reliance on puns and wordplay. A basic error of the script is December 6, 1992 (the date most of the play took place) was not a Saturday.

While most of the actors’ performances seemed superficial and their presentation of their lines was stiff and slow, as if they were still thinking about their lines, a few performers stood out. Mary-Anne Sullivan as Aunt Emily was convincing as both a professor and a concerned aunt full of love for her entire family. Samantha Reau played the small role of actress Molly Tannenbaum with energy accompanied by contempt for the Tushman family. Ted Ballard as patriarch Joe Tushman was most sympathetic as he recounted the stories of the closet he had been in earlier in his life.

This was Lynn Lacey’s directorial debut. Kudos to her for choosing to direct an unknown play. Unfortunately, many of Lacey’s cast members were quite static, standing or sitting in place for long stretches of a scene. The humor throughout the play was mostly funny, although repetitive, yet the delivery was generally unnatural. The attention to the details of the characters was poor. Nana, played by Patty McCoart, wasn’t portrayed as elderly as the character should have been. Simply having McCoart use a walker to move and manuever out of her chair would have helped age her. Michael Morales, played by Stephen Keane, thumbed through a record collection without actually looking at the jackets.

Gavin Tameris’ set of a New York apartment was acceptable, with an interesting brick wall visible through the upstage doorway. Stacey King’s light design was limited by the usual problems of burned out fixtures and poor coverage of the facility’s light grid. Lynn Lacey’s sound design was sufficient, although during the first scene change, the background music ended before the scene change did. A note to the cast: When backstage, be quiet! The audience was distracted by your whispering while Joe and Emily were talking seriously.

Castaways’ attempt at bringing an original play to the stage was ambitious, but weak writing and direction proved to be too great a challenge to succeed.


  • Joe Tushman: Ted Ballard
  • Richard Tushman: Andrew Buning
  • Andrea Tushman: Alex Deigh
  • Michael Morales: Stephen Keane
  • Nana: Patty McCoart
  • Pearl Tushman: Lori Muhlstein
  • Molly Tannenbaum: Samantha Reau
  • Emily: Mary-Anne Sullivan


  • Producer: Zina Bleck
  • Director: Lynn Lacey
  • Assistant Director: Lori Muhlstein
  • Diction Specialist: Mary-Anne Sullivan
  • Stage Manager: Mary Brick
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Nyeem Braxton
  • Set Designer: Gavin Tameris
  • Set Construction: Jim Jenkins
  • Lighting Designer: Stacey King
  • Sound Designer: Lynn Lacey
  • Set D├ęcor: Ellen Young
  • Properties: Zina Bleck, Rich Prien
  • Costume Designer: Mary-Anne Sullivan
  • Crew: Todd Ames, Nyeem Braxton, Rocky Jackson, Jim Jenkins, Doug Lacey, Rich Prien, Danny Sullivan
  • Cover Art: Herb Tax
  • Photography: Jim Jenkins
  • Front of House: Kathy Sahlberg

Disclaimer: Castaways Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. Laura was assistant stage manager for CRT’s last production, and Mike & Laura were members of CRT last season.

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One Response »

  1. I had the opportunity to see this show closing weekend. Though it was not perfect, I really connected with the play. The show was not supposed to be a blockbuster, it was intended to tell a family’s story – which it did.There were so many moments in the play where actors got it, where they hit something that struck a chord with me. Kudos to the playwright, director and actors for accomplishing that!