Fourteen Funerals

Bridge Street Theatre, Catskill

Team Sienna or Team Millie: whose side are you on?

By Andrew Andrews

Haley Wong and Montana Lampert Hoover star in Bridge Street Theatre’s production of Eric Pfeffinger’s Fourteen Funerals, directed by Sara Lampert Hoover. Original photos by John Sowle.

Millie is sitting behind her desk at the Martin Mortuary in Blissfield, Indiana, when Sienna walks in from Chicago.

Millie looks and acts the part of a funeral director in Blissfield, Indiana. Sienna looks and acts like she was #LivingTheBestLife in Chicago before she arrived here.

Millie summoned Sienna because she’s the last surviving member of the Fitchwood family, after her fourteen relatives in Blissfield were killed in an illegal fireworks explosion at the family home.

“Fitchwoods always loved their illegal fireworks,” Millie explains. “You can take some comfort in knowing they went doing what they loved. Which of the Fitchwoods were you close with?”

“Oh,” Sienna replies, “I’ve never laid eyes on most of them.”

It turns out that Sienna would never set foot in Blissfield were it not for the possibility that, as the only remaining Fitchwood, she might be eligible for a hefty inheritance.

Promising that there might be something for her, Millie convinces Sienna to deliver the eulogies for the fourteen strangers over the course of two weeks.

Fortunately, Millie can help Sienna learn just enough about each relative to do the trick—provided the two of them can stop arguing over whether Blissfield is small-town Millie’s happiest place on earth or the hell-hole that city-girl Sienna assumes.

On a set designed by John Sowle, Sienna (Wong) delivers short, bittersweet eulogies for each of fourteen relatives, most of whom she’d never even met.

Montana Lampert Hoover has returned to the stage at Bridge Street Theatre, with some fireworks leftover from her grandmother’s roadside stand in last year’s production of Lewiston.

Unlike her previous appearance, in which Hoover was the stranger coming into town to reconnect with her family’s roots, now she’s Blissfield’s happy hometown helper; Haley Wong is the person going on a journey to connect with her family’s fortune.

Fourteen Funerals is well-written, and the portrayals by Hoover and Wong are spot-on. There were a few times when they tripped over their lines, but otherwise, both delivered a very convincing performance.

The story starts out with one funny one-liner after another, gradually building tension without diminishing humor.

The yarn isn’t quite perfect: besides the faulty premise that a supposedly-smart young woman could be suckered into delivering fourteen eulogies as a condition of earning her inheritance, it’s a little weird that Sienna isn’t freaked out by Marnie’s stalker tendencies. The romantic tension between the characters feels like an afterthought, possibly added to capitalize on the current popularity of queer stories.

John Sowle’s set and lighting has all of the clean, convincing design that we’ve come to expect from him, always knowing exactly which and how many props it will take to make for a convincing setting. Surround-sound during the performance, and somber funeral music playing in the lobby as we waited for the house to open, were delicious additions to the experience.

If only every funeral was as much fun as these fourteen!

Andrew Andrews attended Fourteen Funerals at Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill on Sunday, June 5, 2022 @ 2:00pm to write this review.