Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: Miles and Ellie

Miles and Ellie, by Don Zolidis, produced by Montgomery Theater, directed by Tom Quinn, reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield. Featuring Rachel Brennan, Jessica Bedford, Sean Close, Gerri Weagraff, Tom Teti.

Review: Miles and Ellie


By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

Miles and Ellie, a new play by Don Zolidis, has just the sort of script Montgomery Theater loves: a rom-com trading in the difficult relationships and dysfunctional family dynamics of the comfortable class. It’s an evening’s entertainment that is by turns sweet, sad, funny, ridiculous and, despite some fine performances, grating.   

Narrated by Ellie (Rachel Brennan), the couple’s tale unspools through two episodes. Act one presents the blossom and wither of a high school romance; act two occurs 20 years later, when Ellie returns home for Thanksgiving after a nasty divorce. 

The show’s problems exist mostly in its secondary characters. Ellie’s father Burt (Tom Teti), a hypocritical Republican state senator, speaks to his family in values-first campaign speeches, while her mother, Mary (Gerri Weagraff), is little more than a sight gag, a cookie-baking, stand-by-your-man paper doll. Meanwhile, an older sister, Illyana (Jessica Bedford) bullies Ellie like a real life Lucy Van Pelt. Thank Bedford’s comic timing for making this character watchable, if not believable.

Some of the distortion is a matter of perspective. Ellie narrates, so she gets to exaggerate. And it’s true, she’s been living a frozen life, wondering what might have been if things worked out with Miles, the boy from health class assigned to care for a diaper-clad bag of flour with her overnight (though I’ve yet to hear of a real-life health class that asks teenagers to spend the night together or to record a vicious argument for educational purposes). 

As directed by Tom Quinn, Brennan’s Ellie is impulsive, neurotic, spiteful. Any Austenite could tell you there’s nothing wrong with a flawed heroine, but she must have some redeeming qualities. Young Ellie, well, she’s young. Older Ellie’s screeching and sulking just makes her seem brittle and unhinged. Zolidis should note that Sean Close’s thoughtful, awkward Miles, a character with no backstory and little of the expository dialogue heaped on the others, makes the most impact. It’s been a pleasure to watch Close’s rise through the ranks of Philly theater, and this restrained performance ought to offer more proof that this young actor can singlehandedly save a production from itself (and he has, here, and elsewhere). 

Playing at: Montgomery Theater, 124 N. Main St., Souderton. Through Sun., Sep. 29. Tickets: $23-$35. Information: 215-723-9984 or

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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