Theatre Review: CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) by Shelia Callaghan

Now playing at The Firehouse Theatre is a production that I promise you is unlike anything else you’ll see in the city of Richmond. The Firehouse has always been a haven for funky, thought-provoking theatre and, ‘CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)’ carries on in that fine tradition.

At its heart, ‘CRUMBLE’ is a story of neglect and disrepair. Janice [Christina Billew] is ‘a cantankerous, tedious pre-teen with bad hygiene and a mouth like a trucker’ and her Mother [Jen Meharg] is a woman ‘so deep in sorrow she can’t see past her nose.’ Janice escapes daily to her room to listen to music on headphones, dream of Justin Timberlake [played by Matt Hackman] and argue with her dolls. Mom busies herself cooking gourmet meals that her daughter won’t eat and dreams of Harrison Ford. They live in a rundown apartment house that at one time was a mansion but is now in great disrepair [personified by Frank Creasy]. While they all share the same space, each character almost always speaks in monologue, which suits the isolationism and alienation that every character is dealing with.

The Apartment speaks of past tenants and past glories while tolerating Janice and her mom. Janice and her mom are dealing with the loss of a loved one and, basically they don’t speak when they don’t have to. Mom leans on her sister Barbara [Lisa Kotula] for advice on how to ‘handle Janice’ but Barbara is as broken and lost as her sister.

The show is dark and it will make you think, it might even make you cringe. But, it’s not all bleak and dreary. The show has some very funny moments…just don’t expect the froth and sugar you might see at another local theatre.

I’ve not seen anything quite like this show. I highly recommend this if you’re a daring sort who’s looking to be challenged and pushed. The performances were great. Creasy provides the comedy just when the audience needs a moment to exhale, and Billew’s Janice is achingly nuanced and yet child-like in her excitement and wonder.

The overwhelming lesson I took away from seeing this show is quite simple to say, but at times difficult to execute: Parents, TALK TO YOUR KIDS!! No matter their age, or if you think they’re ‘fine’ and handling things well, TALK TO YOUR KIDS. You never know what they might be doing alone in their bedroom. And, the advice goes both ways: Kids, TALK TO YOUR PARENTS!! No matter how uncool you may think they are, or how unfair you may think they treat you, talk to them. They need you, and even if you don’t believe it now, one day you’ll realize you need them.

Say something before it’s too late.

[Directed by Bill Paxton. Playing weekends now thru March 20. Tix $25. Curtain at 8pm Thurs-Sat and at 4pm Sunday. or 804.355.2001]

Barry Hall