The Providence of Neighboring Bodies

Ars Nova, Manhattan

By Andrew Andrews

The eccentric Dora (Lori Parquet) checks out her neighbor’s fur-covered guest, Jane (Dinah Berkeley) in The Providence of Neighboring Bodies. Original photo by Christopher Genovese.

Imagine three eccentric women in a small Rhode Island town. There’s Ronnie, the English teacher with an admittedly-poor command of the English language. Her neighbor, Doris, has lived here all her life—just a few blocks away—yet seemingly has no friends in town, and is desperate to make Ronnie her bestie; to say that she has a screw loose is a few screws too few! With these two, their inner dialogues are each hilarious in different ways; put them into a conversation and the awkwardness adds to the comedy and leads to certain trouble.

And then, the proverbial stranger comes into town: Jane, the perfect house guest, enveloped in fur, tracing a family history that includes an “undesirable element”—an uncle that was run out of Dodge decades earlier, before civil rights applied to certain individuals.

The Providence of Neighboring Bodies is Jean Ann Douglass’ tale of scapegoating, discrimination and old values that die hard. Just like Made in China, which we reviewed last weekend, it’s a fable wrapped not-so-tightly inside a comedy that will have you literally laughing-out-loud. Parquet’s Dora is magnificent in every sense of the word, and Berkeley has her character down pat. Amy Staats, thrust into her role due to a family emergency, nonetheless understood her part as if there’s more than a little bit of Ronnie within her; surely, more than a bit of credit goes to director Jess Chayes for that.

Kudos to Dutch Kills Theater Company for bringing this fun little story with a serious message to Ars Nova; it’s totally worth the $20 ticket price and a great way to spend an hour or so without taking up your entire evening. Check out the show before it ends on March 11th, and be sure to stop at the concession stand for the softest, freshest Gummibärchen you’ve ever tasted!

Andrew Andrews attended The Providence of Neighboring Bodies at Ars Nova in Manhattan on Saturday, February 18, 2017 @ 9:00pm to write this review.