Edward Allen Baker's entertaining play about a very dysfunctional family whipsaws from melodrama to dark comedy.
The folks in The Framer make the dysfunctional family in August: Osage County look pretty tame by comparison. The title character, Ronnie (Craig Bockhorn) is dying of cirrhosis. His long-suffering wife, the tough-talking Patsy (Suzanne Didonna) is patiently waiting for him to die, while also waiting for him to admit he loves her. Meanwhile, Patsy's hot-tempered, if somewhat dense, brother Falcon (Matt Walton) has a young daughter whom he believes was molested by his wife's sister's husband, Joe (David Fraoli). Falcon would kill Joe if he had the courage. He even has a dirty cop (Dared Wright) egging him on, supplying the gun and the opportunity. Still, he can't bring himself to do it, but he knows someone that he just might be able to convince to do the job for him.
Set in Ronnie's cluttered shop (well designed by Jito Lee), with the aptly metaphorical name "Frame on You," the plot's many interwoven strands unfold in fits and starts. Curiously, the first act tends toward melodrama, suggesting that we take these somewhat overdrawn but engaging characters seriously, but in the second act, the play suddenly -- and unexpectedly -- becomes a hilarious dark comedy.
Falcon, who seemed like such a dummy in the first act, comes up with a surprisingly clever idea of how to get away with murdering the man he claims molested his daughter. One then expects the tone to whipsaw back toward seriousness when the dirty cop delivers Joe to the frame shop for the kill. But there is one last surprising gag when Joe tries to act civilized in the midst of his predicament. The author's ability to get a big laugh right at the high point of the play's drama is mighty impressive.