'Pterodactyls' uneven but funny 

Nora’s Basement Productions
Theatre on the Square
Through March 10

Pterodactyls, while being strange and sporting an uneven cast, has some lines that theater-goers can retain as standing jokes. Among the ranks of “I’m clean, I’m clean!” and “There can be no stress in the presence of pie” from other shows, the line “You’re pretty!” will never be met with a straight face again.

The new troupe Nora’s Basement Productions is using Theatre on the Square’s second stage to perform this play about AIDS and inequities. The characters make up a dysfunctional, if all too familiar, family: the disillusioned patriarch, the alcoholic matriarch and the two children they have scarred. The action begins when Emma (Mary Ferguson), who has a penchant for forgetting, brings home the man she wants to marry, Tommy (Tristan Ross), who is promptly forced into service as the maid, uniform and all. He is shortly followed by Todd (J. Thomas Cochran), the brother Emma forgot she had. Todd’s announcement that he has AIDS starts the chain of events that will end with multiple shattered lives.

Under director Erika Saperstein, the cast feels disjointed. Donna Wing as the mother and John Mercer as the father give us forced performances, but Ross is a hoot throughout, and Ferguson plays neurotic with panache. Cochran, while doubling as the narrator, is the most at-ease character, and presents a smooth performance.

Some details seem to be ignored, such as the shabby set, which doesn’t help us see the family as well-off, which is brought up several times in the script. Grace, the mother, asks whether Emma’s wedding dress’ hem is even, but Emma is wearing a dress with a handkerchief bottom — and this is not played as a joke. Saperstein, however, coaxes the humor forward — creating the show’s best moments — and they save, and even redeem, the whole production.

Pterodactyls continues through March 10, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, seniors and students are $12.For reservations, call the theater at  317-685-TOTS.

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