Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On A Stool at the End of the Bar

A new play by Robert Callely had its debut over at 59E59 Theaters.  I always enjoy seeing different things over on the east side in the intimate theaters.  The productions that grace the stage are usually unique, provocative, or just a different and interesting theatrical experience.

Last night's opening, however,  of On a Stool at the end of The Bar left me feeling a bit empty and somewhat puzzled.  Mr. Callely wants to convince us of something that simply seems preposterous (not only to the characters in the play).  When the entire premise of the play is suspect, it's hard to really enjoy the general goings-on.  Despite some fairly decent performances, there's not much to salvage from this show.

However, to be applauded are the three young actors who grace the stage - Luke Slattery (Joey), Zachary Brod (Mario), and Sara Kapner (Angie).  Anyone who writes material for such young, eager, and energetic talent is to be applauded.  All three turned in fine performances, with Mr. Slattery and his good college-boy looks taking the pole position.  Robert Hogan (Father Connors) made a fairly impactful cameo appearance in his scene playing and old and old fashioned priest with limited experience in dealing with the issues presented to him.  Possibly the most well written part of Mr. Callely's play.  Timothy John Smith, a Boston native recently transplanted to NYC, has a bright future in front of him here whether in musicals (his bio suggests he has much experience in this area) or dramatic plays - which is what he demonstrates quite nicely in this awkwardly written conflict of this play.

That just leaves Antoinette Thornes, quite a quixotic choice for the leading lady.  She turned in as best a performance she could for the very awkward and poorly written part for her.  She never fought.  She never stood up for herself.  She found herself in quite a pickle and with such a past I would have expected an entirely different, potent, angry, repressed, and strong character.  And since this is the central nerve of the entire play... well, I think u see the problem now.   None of this is Ms. Thornes' fault, of course.  She herself is a rock-band singer/songwriter - and this likely may have been her debut on stage.  To that end, she is triumphant and I applaud her risk taking.  Her character, on the other hand, was likely the most disappointingly written character I have ever encountered.

In the end, direction by Michael Parva was lackluster and lacked any sizzle given the explosive nature of the subject matter.  Actors were angry but that anger was flat and muted.  In such a small theater, sometimes miracles are possible and the show transports you in an intimate setting to an entirely other place.  Unfortunately none of that happened this evening.  We were left in the end with uncertainty, anger, unresolved conflict, and although I believe we are supposed to see a glimmer of hopefulness in the very last line of the script, it was not nearly enough to clear the black cloud of gloom that hung over the entire evening.