Rosemary is a lucky women — she’s done well as a professor in an arcane field related to literature, and now she’s a grandmom with an infant granddaughter she obviously adores. At least that’s the way it looks on the surface in Jessica Bedford’s play “Splinter and Crack,” a world-premiere from a new theater company called Juniper Productions.
In fact, Rosemary’s in trouble. A neighbor says Rosemary lately talks to herself. Bridges and tunnels scare her to no end — after all, they have the possibility of falling down or caving in. As a result, her daughter always has to bring the baby over the river to visit with grandmom. What’s worse, something fell down the last time the baby was there, and gave her a solid knock. That’s because Rosemary is a hoarder, with a house full of knick-knacks and junk and stuff all over the place.
Or so we’re told by the characters: Rosemary, who knows she’s a hoarder but sees no problem; her increasingly alarmed daughter; her son-in-law who threatens to keep their child away from grandma’s unsafe place, and the TV-celebrity psychologist invited for a surprise intervention in her living room. They speak to Rosemary about her entrenched habits, like her exhaustive collection of porcelain roses that she buys, brings in and probably never looks at again.
One character sums it up early on: “This place is in chaos!” But you can’t prove it by looking at the playing space of “Splinter and Crack.” Except for a tall pile of nicely stacked magazines and newspapers and a few pieces on the floor near the furniture, this place — the driver for Bedford’s plot about compulsive hoarding — is probably as neat as your average American living room. If you sit at “Splinter and Crack” and have to imagine something that’s not there – in fact, the opposite of what you’re seeing — wouldn’t it be better as a radio play?
The 90-minute show moves swiftly under Harriet Power’s direction, especially the pointed back-and-forth between Rosemary and the psychologist, Dr. Rick Reed — each wily with instant rejoinders, maybe a little too wily in Bedford’s script to feel genuine. Nevertheless, they’re fun to listen to as they joust with tongues, not swords. “Splinter and Crack” doesn’t set out to offer insight into the general problems of hoarding — or “gathering,” as Dr. Reed insists — but it nicely lays out the particulars of Rosemary’s obsession.
She’s played by Mary Elizabeth Scallen, whose characterization of a woman ambushed by her own kin is dead-on. The ensemble is fine: Julianna Zinkel as her daughter, Alex Hughes as her son-in-law, and Akeem Davis portraying the man who professionally intervenes.
Juniper Productions, led by Sonya Aronowitz, began last fall in the Philly Fringe Festival with a production of short vignettes called “#cocktail plays” at Philadelphia Distilling in the Northern Liberties neighborhood. The stage company’s mission is to develop and produce plays by local talent, and to present them in unconventional spaces. “Splinter and Crack” plays at Hamilton Studios, a comfortable performing arts space near Spring Garden Street, and is the company’s first full-length production.
“Splinter and Crack,” from Juniper Productions, runs through May 13 at Hamilton Studios, 1025 Hamilton St., between 10th Street and Ridge Avenue. Information: www.juniper.agency