Photo by Don Kellogg

Friday, August 20, 2010

Secrets of the Trade

I saw tonight what I believe to be the best play of the season and quite possibly one that will remain at the top of my list for a very long time.  Yes, it was that good. Brilliant writing, superb acting, and shrewd, clever directing all rolled up in one!  Primary stages has landed a winner in Jonathan Tolins' new work, Secrets of the Trade by Primary Stages at the 59E59 Theaters.

What makes it so delicious, you ask?  The answer, John Glover, Noah Robbins, Mark Nelson, Amy Aquino, and Bill Brochtrup.  Of course they would just be reading dialogue without director, Matt Shackman who brings this touching coming of age story to life.

Martin Kerner, (Glover) aging Tony award winning (six of 'em) director takes a very young and impressionable Andrew Lipman (Robbins) , a tender, 16 year old Jewish boy with big dreams of a life in the theater under his wing in 1980.  Andy's parents (Aquino and Nelson) are both supportive and cautious.  His mother was a dancer some 20 years ago.  She heard the rumors and whispers about Kerner.  Back then, you either knew... or just heard whispers.

The tender, poignant, and very often funny story unfolds over the next 10 years of Andy's life.  It's a story of parents watching their son grow up, always proud, sometimes jealous, and occasionally sad and  lacking answers themselves.  It's a story of a young boy struggling to come of age, grappling with what a mentor is supposed to provide him, give him, make him into;  It's less of a coming out story - (but it is) and more about what two very different people at such very different points in life can learn from each other.  It's about what's said, and what is not.  We are shown there is something to be learned from both.

Glover is a powerhouse.  He has command of the stage every second he is on - and off.  Robbins is quite possibly the best young talent there is today - a born storyteller, genuine ham, and all around "natural" under the lights.  Aquino's comedic timing is impeccable and Nelson's nervous and humble energy makes him one of the most believable actors around.   Of course, none of this would be possible without several dashes of humor placed at exactly at the right moment, monologues (and wine glass 'dings') delivered as if the actors were investing the very words on stage, and of course, just the right amount of insider jokes and references. But I can't give away the entire story.  It may have been good, but after all, it is a play about the secrets of the the trade.

See it for yourself.  It's worth double the ticket price at least.  I won't tell you what I paid for my ticket.  That, too, is a secret.