Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Qualms

From a master of dialogue and interesting, quirky, provocative topics, Bruce Norris has shared a slightly uncomfortable, marvelously funny, and touching story that delves into the lives of swingers!  Yes, you read that correctly - Swingers!

The cast of couples is superbly unique, extremely diverse, and wonderfully talented.  The story centers around newcomers to the swingers group - upscale couple Jeremy Shamos (Chris) and Sarah Goldberg (Kristy).  The group starts out with the host couple - the mature John Procaccino (Gary) and younger and ditzy Kate Arrington (Teri) and grows more eclectic with each completely different couple that arrives - heavyset firecracker Donna Lynne Champlin (Deb) and hunky handsome, likely gay Andy Lucien (Ken) and exotic Chinasa Ogbuagu (Regine) and white bread American-as-can-be Noah Emmerrich (Roger).   What a wild mix and what a wild ride they are in for.

Ruminating on faith, love, commitment, religion, and everything related to the meaning of life itself, this group of swingers go on one wild ride this evening.  The audience is along for the ride the entire time - but I must say that the play slowed to an unbearable crawl about 2/3rd of the way through as if Mr. Norris just couldn't wrap it up cleanly enough.  The penultimate scene pertaining to statistics in a large metropolitan city should really have ended the play so cleverly but he needed a comforting reconciliation scene around the gun they brought out in Act I - the banana pudding.

And finally, I love a play that features what is likely to be a new actor - in this case he doesn't even have any lines - but the expression on his face was worth 1000!  Kudos to Julian Leong (Delivery Boy). And Kudos to writing such roles into plays to let everyone get their start!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What I Did Last Summer

A.R. Gurney's new work over at the Pershing Square Signature Center is a hidden gem amongst the pile of off-Broadway plays out there. From it's construction to its unique music and rhythm to its cast - this show shines as bright as the north star in the evening sky.  Jim Simpson's fine direction appears delicate and purposeful without being overly obvious and heavy.

First off, it's not "I know what you did last summer".  That is whole other genre and ball of wax.  This show is a family drama and is touching, tender, and uplifting.  It rings true and honestly portrays a family struggle at the tail end of WWII.  No punches pulled.  No fancy stage tricks, but plenty of innovative and unique theatrical presentation techniques - most prominently - the typewriter projection on the back wall and the percussion rhythms and sounds quietly but effectively matching the rhythm of speech and motion.

Most certainly the divine Kristine Nielsen takes the show instantly to a higher level.  She is a consummate character actress and fits the bill perfectly for Anna Trumbull (a.k.a. The Pig Lady).  Carolyn McCormick (known for her recurring role of Dr. Olivet in Law & Order) was the perfectly flawed and loving mother, Grace.  Despite his tender age, the lead character, Charlie, the confused, energetic, every-day kid, was played with wild abandon and tremendous heart by the young and talented Noah Galvin (last seen in The Burnt Part Boys).

The entire play is enjoyable but when it wraps up - actually the very last line - you will leave the theater with a heart slightly warmer and full than when you entered.