Pursuit of Happiness

By Dan and Alison Tingley


All An Act Theatre Productions is currently presenting The Liberation of Jerome Gleason, written by Anne Pie’. Pie’ also wrote Front Street, Wild Mushrooms, and At First Sight. Michael Weiss directs this world premier show. That’s right. Last Friday was the world premier of this play. We went on Saturday night, so we saw the world mier, we guess.

Set in 1930s Ireland, the story is that of Jerome Gleason and his oppressive wife, Sybil. Jerome is an unpublished poet and a dreamer. He loves life and wants a family, which is why he is so excited about the anticipated arrival of his deceased sister’s children. Sybil is the complete opposite of Jerome in every way. She takes every opportunity to squash Jerome’s dreams and insult Jerome’s best friend, Billy, who suffered a brain injury as a child. As the relationship of Jerome and Sybil unfolds, Jerome’s liberation and happiness are finally realized.

The cast features Michael Burns (Jerome), Karen Schelinski (Sybil), Ray Steinbacher (Billy), Amy Welker Rowe (Jane), Betsy Butoryak (Mother Superior), and Jennifer Perry (Sister Kieran). The whole cast does a great job of bringing this story to life.

Burns gives a fantastic performance with a rollercoaster of emotion. He shows a range from happy and optimistic to absolutely devastated with realism. He makes the audience feel his emotions along with the character. Schelinski is absolutely dislikeable. She does a wonderful job of making us despise and then pity Sybil. Her convincing portrayal of her heartless, unfeeling character is impressive. Steinbacher gives Billy a charming innocence. He plays his childlike character with compassion and ease. His character offers some funny and profound observations that Steinbacher delivers perfectly. Rowe, with a smaller part, shows a lot of feeling. She does a great job with this role. Butoryak gives a natural and convincing performance with some well delivered comedic lines that allow the audience to laugh a little during a serious play. Perry seems a bit uncomfortable on the stage.

The set is impeccable. The direction is well done. However, some characters are difficult to hear at times, and some of the costumes are not entirely appropriate for the time period.

The Liberation of Jerome Gleason runs on weekends through April 14 with no shows Easter weekend. One dollar of every admission goes to benefit the Community Shelter Service and Erie’s homeless. We definitely recommend this uplifting and heartfelt show. Visit the website at www.allanact.net or email director@allanact.net for more information.