This one kinda came out of nowhere, at least in terms of its full-length status. In 1999, I wrote a ten-minute play for the Boston Theater Marathon. It was called ORAL REPORT and it was simply a discussion of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal--by three old Irish Catholic ladies sitting on their front porch on a summer's evening. The play was staged by the New Repertory Theatre and directed by Adam Zahler. It was received extraordinarily well. In 2000 I put the ladies on the porch again and wrote ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE. More sex talk. This time I directed. Same thing in 2001. Three ladies. More sex talk. Late in the summer of 2002, I put these pieces together with a new 20-minute playlet I wrote for the same characters and I added two more non-related pieces, called the play SEX AND CATHOLICS, and staged a reading at the Firehouse Center in Newburyport with Bobbie Steinbach, Ellen Colton, Cheryl McMahon, John Budzyna and Laura Napoli. Another nice reception. I submitted the script to Spiro Veloudos, Artistic Director of the Lyric Stage Company of Boston. He was looking for a replacement for his January show and...badaboom...SEX AND CATHOLICS became BEYOND BELIEF and received a full production. It went very well. I realized that the main attraction of the piece was "The Porch Ladies" so I eliminated the non-related pieces, wrote scenes for the ladies' husbands, and added the "Young Man," who was something of a Narrator. In the fall of 2004, Ann Baker, along with New Century Theatre, produced the new version at CityStage in Springfield, Massachusetts. John Davin and Richard Snee played the husbands, and Marina Re replaced the previously-booked Bobbie Steinbach as "Gert." Nine performances. Nine standing ovations. I recognized, however, that even though the audience was thoroughly happy with the show, still, the script wasn't quite finished. So I rewrote, eliminated the Narrator (too bad--Andy Dolan was wonderful in the part), and left the play in the hands of the three ladies and their two husbands. In the spring of 2007, we staged the show at the Stoneham Theatre, where the title became THE PORCH, where Sheriden Thomas became yet another "Gert," and where the standing ovations continued nightly, for four weeks. As of this writing (September, 2009), the play has just been produced by the Actors' Collaborative Theatre in Portsmouth, NH, and I've directed it at the Majestic Theatre in West Springfield, where it's running through mid-October.
Gert - a woman around 70; brash, blunt; opinionated
Alma - also around 70; naive, curious, a little hard of hearing
Marjorie - again, around 70; stable, educated, a calming influence
Leo - around 70, Gert's husband; bantamlike, edgy
Pat - around 70, Marjorie's husband, grounded, a bit lethargic
Alma's front porch in an urban neighborhood north of Boston, Labor Day, 2002.
"Jack Neary's THE PORCH is everything theatre should be. It is endearing, drop-dead funny, heartbreaking and, in the end, triumphant. I left the theater thinking to myself, Gee, I wish I'd written that."
Dick Flavin, Emmy-winning author and humorist
"Enduring friendships and shared tragedies. Playwright Jack Neary mines what is near and dear to us in THE PORCH. A trio of elderly ladies hilariously parse topics of sex, impotency and death with wide-eyed surprise...Neary's ear for comic banter is especially sharp and the audience laughed uproariously at recognizable references to long marriages and family dynamics."
The Boston Globe
“Populated with characters as familiar as colorful relatives at a family reunion, THE PORCH is to eastern Massachusetts what Steel Magnolias is to northwest Louisiana. THE PORCH is a deceptively tender play that is also very funny. It's an inviting place to set a while and will leave you feeling right neighborly."
"This ensemble is one of the funniest that I have seen in a long time. Each actor was perfect in their roles and really brought their characters to life. This is a show that will make you laugh out loud and cry with its tender moments. So get off the couch and get on THE PORCH."
The North Shore Tab
"THE PORCH has - and this is no knock - all the best entertainment elements of the most creative situation comedies. Audiences can expect to be told a good story and to laugh a lot. THE PORCH is a play that will appeal to just about everyone, including people who normally wouldn't go to the theater. You can even safely drag your husband or father to this play, and count on the fact that he'll leave with a smile on his face."
“THE PORCH delightfully captures the dialects and family dynamics audience members no doubt can relate to. Watching THE PORCH is sort of like watching your parents and their friends talk in dated terms about things like sex and religion — but funnier. THE PORCH shows creativity’s potential for greatness at its best.”
"Thanks for inviting us to see THE PORCH. We just LOVED it. It was beautifully written and directed. And we just loved those actors. We were both in tears at the end of your show, just awe-inspired...THIS is why we do theatre."
...AND FOR ITS PREVIOUS MANIFESTATION, BEYOND BELIEF
“BEYOND BELIEF is a poignant, playful mix of sex and religion...Alternately hilarious, preposterous and tragic…” Ellen Pfiefer, the Boston Globe
“Jack Neary’s crowd-pleasing look at Catholicism (is an) entertainment (which) shrewdly, if coyly, lampoons Catholics’ repressed attitudes about sexuality. The writing is…effective, largely due to the deeply touching performance of Colton as a woman wrestling with a long-hidden secret.” Robert Nesti, the Boston Herald.
BELIEF: Faith can be fun...(The final playet), SECRETS, which deals with priestly
celibacy and the issues facing the church today, steps back from the comedy
and offers a one-two dramatic punch as Alma shares her family’s secrets
with her friends in a stirring, thought-provoking climax...(BEYOND BELIEF
is played) for laughs and gets plenty…But in the end it is the poignant
‘why and how did it happen?’ question that reverberates through
(the play), proving once again Neary’s ability to elicit serious reflection
through the laughter and tears.”
Nancye Tuttle, the Lowell Sun
"Neary has created a perfect mix for his cutting laceration of blind-faith, religious conservatism. The four Gert, Alma, Marjorie playlets showcase some of the best comedy/parody writing, direction and performances I've experienced in my 40+ years in the theatre." Larry Blumsack, Theatre New England
“‘Beyond Belief,’ filling CityStage with laughter until Oct. 10…features pinpoint performance and the very best in comic timing...as individuals in their senior years converse about sexuality, mortality, the Catholic Church, and, quite delightfully, their relationships with one another...The punch lines are…imaginative and fresh...Neary has a knack for injecting one-line gems at appropriate moments. The second act of the play provides for higher drama as Neary's tone and choice of subject matter grows serious. The scandal centering upon Catholic priests becomes pivotal...The show concludes as all cast members join voices for a sweet rendering of the theme song for "Beyond Belief," the rock and roll classic, ‘Only You.’ The entire opening night audience rewarded fine work with a standing ovation...Neary has been an active presence in Western Massachusetts theater. This is surely one of his finest efforts.” Fred Sokol, Springfield Republican
Read an EXCERPT
Read Act One, Scene One, in its entirety.
Visit my VIDEOS page, to view two scenes from the 2008 Stoneham Theatre production, and two more from the 2009 Majestic Theater production.
Check out Melissa Wagner's remarkable BEYOND BELIEF POSTER
ORAL REPORT, ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE and THREE-PEAT, the play which introduced the Porch Ladies, are currently available by contacting Baker's Plays.
Questions? Please contact me by EMAIL
You may purchase a perusal copy of THE PORCH via PayPal by visiting Jack Neary's ScriptStore.