Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer Shorts 2015 Series A at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Clea Alsip and J.J. Kandel in 10K.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Now in its ninth year, Summer Shorts 2015, the highly acclaimed annual festival of new American short plays, is currently being staged at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  The festival consists of three one-act plays presented in each of two series running in repertory:  the plays in Series A are 10K by Neil Labute, Glenburn 12 WP by Vickie Ramirez, and The Sentinels by Matthew Lopez;  those in Series B are Built by Robert O’Hara, Love Letters to a Dictator by Stella Fawn Ragsdale, and Unstuck by Lucy Thurber.

Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing Series B this year.  But I did see Series A and I’m glad I did.  All three plays in this series are simply terrific and all of the actors’ performances are first rate across the board.

The three plays in Series A are situated in different venues and the characters in the three plays bear little superficial resemblance to one another.  The man (J. J. Kandel) and the woman (Clea Alsip) in 10K are two young married (but not to each other) joggers who meet by chance on a wooded jogging path. The characters in Glenburn 12 WP are Troy Davis (W. Tre Davis), an African-American hipster in his mid 20s, and Roberta Laforme (Tanis Parenteau), a Native American professional woman in her early 30s; they also meet by chance – but in an Irish pub near Grand Central, rather than in a park.  In The Sentinels, Alice (Meg Gibson), Kelly (Michelle Beck), and Christa (Kellie Overbey) are three widows who meet regularly over a period of years in the same coffee shop in the Financial District to commemorate their husbands’ deaths.  But despite these differences, there does appear to be a theme that ties these works together: in all of them, the characters have experienced losses and are forced to deal with them, each in his or her own way.

In 10K, the man and the woman realize that they are suffering from similar losses: both are married and parents but neither enjoys, within his or her own marriage, the personal and sexual pleasures that they once took for granted.  The woman’s husband travels constantly and is seldom home; the man’s wife hates the world.  Nor do their children provide them with the satisfaction that they thought they would.  Now, finding themselves stuck in unsatisfactory marriages, they resort to dreams and imaginative fantasies to provide what is lacking in their reality.  But will that be enough?

L-R: Tanis Parenteau and W. Tre Davis in GLENBURN 12 WP.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
In Glenburn 12 WP, Roberta, who is something of a regular at the pub, is mourning the loss of her friend Krystal.  Troy walks in, having tired of participating in a nearby protest movement, and Roberta engages him in conversation.  As it turns out, neither Troy nor Roberta are anything like what the other expected, and before the play ends, they’re bantering back and forth in a manner neither would have imagined possible, given the difference in their backgrounds and the stereotypical images that each had of the other’s ethnic and cultural heritage.  Kieran, the pub’s regular bartender, isn’t there and Roberta goes downstairs to search for him.  By play’s end, we realize how much more there is to Troy than we should have thought; we understand why Roberta is mourning Krystal; we find out what happened to Kieran; and we discover that Roberta deals with loss quite differently than do the joggers in 10K.

L-R: Meg Gibson, Kellie Overbey, and Michelle Beck in THE SENTINELS.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Finally, The Sentinels moves backwards through a series of scenes from 2011 to 2002 as Alice, Kelly and Christa meet annually to commemorate the losses of their husbands.  They all evolve over time and each deals with her loss in her own way: Alice throw herself into socio-political causes; Kelly remarries and is pregnant; Christa is just moving on.  Different strokes for different folks but it works for them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Outstanding Revivals of BOY'S LIFE and BOY GETS GIRL at The Seeing Place Theater

L-R: Natalie Neckyfarow and Brandon Walker in BOY'S LIFE.  Photo by Russ Rowland.
Now in its sixth season, The Seeing Place, located on East 26th Street in Manhattan, is currently staging two exceptional revivals in repertory: Boy’s Life by Howard Korder and Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman.  It is the juxtaposition of these two plays, both focusing on gender relations, that resonates synergistically to enhance our appreciation of both.

Boy’s Life was originally produced in 1988, garnering a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize nomination at the time, but comes across as somewhat dated today.  Those were the pre-PC days, you may recall, when “no” meant “maybe,” “maybe” meant “yes,” and “nice girls” simply couldn’t be expected to actually say “yes” outright.  It was then that the idea that “boys will be boys” was well nigh acceptable and young women were taught to be wary of post-adolescent men only a few years out of college who might use any ruse – from lying to alcohol – to lure them into bed.

Three such men are Jack (Brandon Walker), Don (Alex Witherow), and Phil (Logan Keeler) who have evolved from being “campus cut-ups to wasted potentials” and who attempt to continue to live lives centering on cheap beer, drugs, and sexual conquests.  Jack is married to Carla (Candice Oden) and has a son but he doesn’t allow those minor details to stop him from attempting to pick up Maggie (Natalie Neckyfarow), nor from borrowing Phil’s or Don’s apartment to facilitate his afternoon trysts.

Phil and Don are a bit more sensitive than Jack (who is clearly the alpha male in the group) but both of them are just as much on the make.  Phil will say almost anything if he thinks it might enable him to re-connect with Karen (Mary Ruth Baggott) – and if he can cop a feel in the process, so much the better.  Don hooks up with Lisa (Brisa Frietas), a waitress and aspiring sculptress, and ultimately falls in love with her, but even that doesn’t prevent him from engaging in a one night stand with another mentally unstable girl (Olivia Baseman).

The play unfolds as a series of brief vignettes rather than as a linear story line and is most effective in doing so.  After 90 minutes of this, a full picture has emerged, reflecting the playwright’s view of men behaving badly.  Despite its being somewhat dated, Boy’s Life is still a thought-provoking and funny play.  And it provides a wonderful prelude to the even more powerful Boy Gets Girl that succeeds it.

L-R: John D'Arcangelo and Erin Cronican in BOY GETS GIRL.  Photo by Russ Rowland.
Boy Gets Girl was first produced in 2000 (by which time it should have been understood that “no” meant “no” even if the world was not quite ready to accept today’s ultra-PC and romance-suffocating “yes” means “yes” standard).  It was acclaimed by Time Magazine as the “Best Play of the Year” and I can readily see why.

In this excellent revival, Theresa Bedell (Erin Cronican), a highly intelligent and talented journalist, reluctantly agrees to go out on a blind date with Tony Ross (Daniel Michael Perez).  Their brief meeting goes well enough and she agrees to meet him again for dinner but, before that second encounter reaches its conclusion, she realizes that she has made a mistake and attempts to end their relationship.  It is not that she perceives anything particularly wrong with Tony; it is just that she doesn’t think that they have enough in common to justify the expenditure of her time when she’d rather devote herself to her career.

But Tony is not on Theresa’s wavelength and does not realize that “no” really does mean “no,” even as regards such mundane matters as meeting for a drink or dinner.  He persists in his attempts to woo her, telephoning incessantly, sending unwanted flowers on a daily basis, showing up unexpectedly at her office.  His persistence escalates to obsession, from that to stalking and, ultimately, to the most pathologically threatening behavior.

Theresa enlists the aid of her hapless secretary, Harriet (Emily Newhouse); of her boss, Howard Siegel (Einar Gunn); and of her co-worker, Mercer Stevens (Brandon Walker), but all to no avail.  Eventually she turns to the police as well and Detective Beck (Virginia Gregory) manages to assist her in establishing an alternate life for herself – one free of Tony but less than ideal.

Erin Cronican (who not only plays the lead role in Boy Gets Girl but also directed Boy’s Life) is absolutely sensational as Theresa.   She perfectly epitomizes the successful feminist in today’s world who finds herself forced to balance a variety of different relationships, including not only those with Tony, Harriet, Mercer and Howard but also that which develops between her and Les Kennkat (John D’Arcangelo), a successful director of soft-core films featuring big-breasted women.  Much of the success of this production must be attributed to her performance.

That is not to deny that Ms Cronican has been very ably supported in this production by the other members of The Seeing Place Theater’s ensemble cast.  Especially noteworthy are Mr. Gunn who plays the role of Howard with just the sort of paternalistic concern that Ed Asner brought to his relationship with Mary in the Mary Tyler Moore Show; Mr. D’Arcangelo, who manages to convey both sensitivity and smarminess in his role as Les; and Mr. Walker, who exhibits the range of his talent by bringing to his role of Mercer so much more restraint than was called for in his role as Jack in Boy’s Life (and, incidentally, who also directed Boy Gets Girl).

Mr. Korder, Ms. Gilman and The Seeing Place Theater all do seem to have predicated these plays on two assumptions with which I don’t necessarily agree.  The first is that male attitudes toward women are almost entirely a function of nurture or conditioning, rather than nature or genetics – that is, that men are attracted to women with large breasts because they have been conditioned by men like Len Kennkat to find large breasts attractive, not that men like Len Kennkat create the films they do, featuring women with big breasts because that is what men want to see.  In support of that contention, they cite such examples as the appeal of women with small feet among the Chinese or of women with long necks among some African tribes.  Surely, it is argued, such fetishes must be a result of conditioning, not genetics; otherwise they would be universal.

And certainly there is merit to that argument.  But the more we learn about evolution, it seems to me, the more we realize that more of our likes and dislikes than we ever imagined do have an evolutionary basis in the survival of our species, and I would have liked to have seen that alternative addressed rather than dismissed out of hand.

The second point on which I tend to disagree is with the plays’ implication that all men are on a spectrum when it comes to mistreating women – that the only difference between men like Jack and Don and Phil who are continually seeking to bed women, on the one hand, and psychopaths like Tony, on the other, is one of degree, not of kind.  To that end, in a very clever bit of casting, Brandon Walker appears as the insensitive, philandering Jack who attempts to conceal his marital state from Maggie in Boy’s Life and then as the much more sensitive and honorable Mercer in Boy Gets Girl.  But what I believe that is meant to suggest is that maybe they’re really not so different:  after all, why did Mercer neglect to tell Theresa he was married for so long?  And did you see the way he was massaging her shoulders?   Finally there is the coup de grace as Mercer admits that the thought of sleeping with Theresa had, indeed, once flashed before his mind.  Obviously, he’s no better than Jack.  (It’s all rather reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s unfortunate statement to the effect that “I’ve looked at many women with lust.  I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times,” isn’t it?)

Sorry, but I can’t buy it.  Mercer’s not on the same spectrum as Jack but, even if he is, neither is on the same spectrum with Tony.  Men may behave badly in many different ways and to many different degrees, but psychopaths and stalkers are in an entirely different league.  This is the same objection that I have to the unfortunate tendency in today’s world to conflate rape with sexual harassment.  To be sure, sexual harassment is reprehensible but it isn’t rape and any attempt to conflate the two only trivializes the true horror of rape itself.

But I digress.  Whatever differences I might have with the playwrights or The Seeing Place Theater regarding their interpretations of male behavior, the fact remains that these are their plays, their ideas, and their productions, not mine, and they have every right to present them as they see fit.  And so they have – and most effectively, with considerable power and humor, I might add.  These are productions very much worth seeing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Funny and Poignant SHOWS FOR DAYS at Lincoln Center

L-R: Dale Soules and Patti Lupone in SHOWS FOR DAYS.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Drawing freely on his own experiences, Douglas Carter Beane,  a very talented gay playwright, has written a wonderfully funny and poignant fictionalized “coming of age” story that is sure to resonate not only with the gay community but with theatergoers of every possible sexual orientation.  In Shows for Days, currently premiering at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Car (Michael Urie), the playwright’s 14 year old alter ego, who is tentatively beginning to explore his own sexuality, learns about the pleasure and pain of first love as well as how he might best confront the larger world around him.

With time to kill before taking the next bus home, Car wanders into a run-down community theater in Reading, Pennsylvania and finds more than he had bargained for.  Irene, a heterosexual, married, Yiddish-spouting, self-styled New York theatrical “maven” with delusions of grandeur (Patti Lupone) and Sid, a rough and tumble, down to earth “butch” lesbian, co-founded the little theatre group.  They are joined in their efforts to make a go of it by Clive, a gay African-American actor with a superficial resemblance to James Earl Jones (Lance Coadie Williams), Maria, a straight, melodramatic aspiring actress (Zoe Winters), and Damien, a duplicitous, self-serving bi-sexual narcissist (Jordan Dean).

As it turns out, the members of the group have big dreams but small resources and limited talent and they are called upon to make all sorts of questionable decisions and compromises.  To paraphrase a line from Irene: they don’t sell out but they do adapt to circumstances in their own financial self-interest.  Along the way, Car discovers his literary talent and just who he is: in making that role come alive, Mr. Urie is exquisitely charming and self-deprecating and the play’s success owes much to him.  Irene is forced to confront her own self-deceptions and in doing so, Ms Lupone is a force to be reckoned with.  Clive faces the hypocrisy inherent in his relationship with a closeted white Republican politician; Mr. Williams is splendid in that role as he seeks to reconcile the inconsistencies in his character’s own persona.  And Ms Soules is simply terrific as Sid, who would prefer to wield a sledge hammer than wear a dress - but who will wear a dress too, and to maximum effect, if that’s what it will take to keep the theater alive.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pride & Prejudice at Theater for the New City

Amanda Yachechak, Lissa Moira, James Parks, and Emily Hin in PRIDE & PREJUDICE - A MUSICAL.  Photo by Peter Welch.
Adapting a complex literary classic such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for the stage is a difficult task.  Turning that adaptation into a musical is even harder, requiring the seamless integration of a musical score into the work.  And doing it all as an off off Broadway production is hardest of all, given that venue’s spatial constraints and limited resources.

But that is just what Theater for the New City has just pulled off with its current staging of Pride & Prejudice – A New Musical: a musical production that hews closely to the novel’s original story lines, employs an exuberantly talented cast of 19, and provides its audience with three solid hours of theatrical fun.

Which is not to say that this show doesn’t have its flaws.  It does.  The score is derivative, the lyrics are pedestrian and I didn’t leave the theater humming any of its tunes.  The choreography is repetitive and clumsy, as it focuses almost exclusively on a half dozen couples engaged in one or another reel-style dance and the theater’s stage is too small to accommodate them all comfortably.  The sets and the costumes are serviceable but not memorable.

What is redeeming about the play in the face of those shortcomings, however, is its fealty to Jane Austen’s original novel, the attractiveness and talent of its enthusiastic cast and, most especially, the extraordinary operatic voices of many of the actors.  They may not have had the best musical material to work with but their renditions of the songs they were given were absolutely extraordinary.

The primary plot line revolves around the desire of Mr. Bennet (Robert Charles Russell) and Mrs. Bennet (Henrietta Stevenson) to marry off their five daughters: Jane (Stephanie Leone), Elizabeth (Amanda Yachechak), Mary (Britney Simone), Kitty (Hallie Wage), and Lydia (Rebecca Knowles).  The pressure on Mr. and Mrs. Bennet to do so is considerable since the British laws of “entail” at that time prevented Mr. Bennet from bequeathing his property upon his death to anyone but a male heir; since he had fathered no sons and had five daughters, it meant that upon his death, his property would go to his closest male relative, his cousin Mr. Collins (James Parks).  And that meant that if his daughters did not marry well, they would be left homeless and helpless upon his demise for what else was a respectable but relatively uneducated woman good for at that time other than to be a wife and homemaker?

Jane falls in love with the dashing Mr. Bingley (Chris Donovan) and he with her (although it takes a while before each realizes that the other shares his or her passion).  But not to worry: by play’s end, they are engaged.  Headstrong Elizabeth is a tougher case: Mr. Collins proposes to her and had she accepted his proposal, it would have provided a neat solution to the problem of the family estate: the home in which she had grown up would have remained hers after Mr. Collins inherited it from her father.  But Elizabeth dismisses him out of hand: that would be too big a price to pay.  At which point Mr. Collins transfers his affections to Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte (Emily Hin), who, being more practical than her friend, accepts his proposal to their mutual advantage.

But back to Elizabeth.  She finds herself strongly attracted to Mr. Bingley’s good friend, Darcy (Jonathan Fox Powers), but simultaneously repelled by his diffident, prideful style and his questionable past.  Wickham (Thom Brown III), the son of Darcy’s father’s one-time steward, claims to have been mistreated by Darcy for no other reason than their class difference, a claim which, if true, the egalitarian (for her time) Elizabeth could not possibly abide.  As it turns out, of course, it is Wickham who is the villain of the piece and Darcy the hero.

True to his villainous nature, Wickham seduces Lydia, the youngest and most innocent of the Bennet children, and runs off with her – and it is Darcy who comes to the rescue.  He makes the very best of a bad situation by assuring that Wickham does, indeed, marry Lydia, thereby making an honest woman of her, restoring her family’s reputation (and chalking up another marriage for the Bennet family). Darcy also lets Elizabeth know the truth about his and Wickham’s past relationship, thereby further restoring his own honor as well.  As you might expect, after that, Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy is inevitable.

And so, by play’s end, three of the Bennet daughters have been married off: Jane to Mr.Bingley, Elizabeth to Darcy, and Lydia to Wickham.  That still leaves Kitty, of course, but, with her considerable beauty and sex appeal (at least as played by Ms Wage), I doubt if she will lack for male proposals.

And Mary will always have her books.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Traveling Papers at The Lion Theatre on Theatre Row

The cast of TRAVELING PAPERS.  Photo by Hunter Canning.
For the first 30 minutes or so of this 90 minute production, Traveling Papers (currently premiering at The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row in midtown Manhattan), comes across as a theatrical classroom exercise – albeit one executed by seven very talented students.  In a scattershot assortment of soliloquies, excerpted from the works of authors ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson to Paul Theroux and from Edith Wharton to Joseph Conrad, the seven actors express their understanding and appreciation of the joy of travel.  Unfortunately, contrary to the sentiment expressed by Robert Frost in his memorable The Road Not Taken, the road these actors are traveling is a road that already has been traveled all too often, and their combined paean to the pleasures of travel appears to be little more than a theatrical conceit.

In the final two thirds of the production, however, matters improve considerably, as the play belatedly focuses increasingly on a single story line.  Miss Reid (Gwen Arment ), a well-meaning but loquaciously boring spinster and the sole passenger on a a German steamer, is driving the ship’s crew to distraction.  In typical male fashion, the ship’s Captain (John Camera ), the ship’s Doctor (Peter Husovsky), and the ship’s First Mate (Macy Idzakovich) determine that what Miss Reid really needs is to take a lover.  To that end they enlist the aid of the ship’s Radio Operator (Kyle Doherty), a handsome but callow youth half her age, with amusing and ultimately very satisfactory consequences.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Simon Callow Stars in Tuesdays at Tesco's

Simon Cowell in TUESDAYS AT TESCO'S.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Even as a child, Paul knew that he really was a girl “inside” (notwithstanding the external physical evidence to the contrary) and, as an adult, he rectified the mismatch by becoming Pauline, a transsexual woman.  Andrew, his selfish and cantankerous father, never could come to terms with Pauline’s transition to womanhood and, despite his daughter’s most valiant efforts at establishing at least some semblance of a loving relationship between the two following the death of her mother, it was all to no avail.  Although she visited her father every Tuesday, washing and ironing his clothes, cleaning his house, preparing his meals for the following week, and accompanying him to Tesco’s (the UK’s leading supermarket) to do the week’s shopping (all in her mother’s stead now that she was gone), Andrew persisted in rejecting and belittling his “domestic goddess,” consistently addressing her as Paul rather than Pauline and mocking everything from her facial stubble to her broad shoulders.

Simon Callow is an extraordinarily talented British actor, justifiably acclaimed for his past solo performances, and it is he who brings Pauline to life on the stage in Tuesdays at Tesco’s, now enjoying its US premiere at 59E59 Theaters in midtown Manhattan as part of the theater’s annual Brits Off Broadway program.  Written by Emmanuel Barley, the play was originally produced in France as Le Mardi a Monoprix, before being translated into English and adapted for the British stage by Michael Hurt and Sarah Vermande in 2011.  It debuted that year at the Edinburgh Festival before coming to America.

To be sure, there is no denying Mr. Callow’s considerable talent and there are moments in which his solo rendition of Pauline’s plight is evocatively moving.  But his comical galumphing about the stage in high heels and graceless dancing, intended perhaps to merely break up the monotony of a less than memorable soliloquy, comes across as less of a paean to femininity than as a mockery of it.

Mr. Callow shares the stage with Conor Mitchell, a pianist who stands off in a corner, plinking from time to time on his instrument but mostly looking bored.  His performance does nothing to enrich the play, only distracting from it and, for the life of me, I have no idea why he’s there at all.  (This is not meant as a criticism of Mr. Mitchell’s musical ability.  Indeed, in light of his extensive resume, I’d imagine that he is quite talented.  But based on the minor role he’s been given to play in this production, there’s just no way to tell.)

The play begins as a tragic-comedy and concludes as a full-fledged tragedy.  But the greater tragedy is the waste of Mr. Callow’s enormous talent on such a trivial enterprise.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Retro Productions' Dazzling Revival of The Butter and Egg Man by George S. Kaufman

The cast of THE BUTTER AND EGG MAN.  Photo by Kyle Connolly.
Although The Butter and Egg Man may be viewed as something of a precursor to Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the fact remains that it was written by George S. Kaufman and first staged at the Longacre Theatre nearly a century ago, so it really ought come as no surprise that the play may seem quite dated today - what with its flappers and bootleggers, its vaudevillians and blue laws.  The play debuted, after all, in the “Roaring Twenties,” a time that was in many ways quite unlike our own, a time when hotel managers looked askance at a single woman’s visiting a man’s room, and a time when the police were more likely than not to shut down a theatrical production if it included a scene in a brothel.  And that, of course, may well be the very reason that Retro Productions selected this particular play to revive for its Tenth Anniversary production since Retro takes it as its mission to “tell good theatrical stories which have an historical perspective – with an emphasis on the 20th century – in order to broaden our own understanding of the world we live in.”

And we all may be very glad that they did because this is one helluva revival – or to use the vernacular of the 1920s: “This show’s a pipe.”  (No, I didn’t know what the phrase meant either until I read the definition provided in the play’s program: “It’s a cinch, easy as pie, sure to succeed.”)  For that is just what this revival deservedly is: a pipe, a cinch, and sure to succeed.

Joe Lehman (Brian Stillman) is a sleazy theatrical agent and wannabe theatrical producer.  Together with his equally sleazy partner, Jack McClure (Matthew Trumbull), he hopes to stage a production of Her Lesson, a convoluted mess of a story featuring the aging actress, Mary Martin (Shay Gines), in the lead role.  There is only one problem: the partners lack the funds to finance the production and Fanny Lehman (Heather E. Cunningham), a one-time vaudeville performer and now Joe’s wife, who could afford to finance the show herself if she chose to, refuses to do so.

Not to worry.  Along comes Peter Jones (Ben Schnickel), a wholesome lad who lives with his mother in Chillicothe, Ohio and who has just arrived in New York in the hopes of parlaying the $20,000 inheritance he received from his grandfather into a large enough sum to enable him to buy the hotel at which he works and return to Chillicothe not merely as one of its employees but as its owner.
Voila!  Peter encounters Joe’s secretary, Jane Weston (Alisha Spielmann), and is immediately smitten.  Jane is as wholesome as Peter but the two are no match for the likes of Joe and Jack.  Predictably, Peter is prevailed upon to invest his $20,000 in Her Lesson, the play opens in Syracuse, and it bombs.  Peter, it seems, is the quintessential “butter and egg man” of the play’s title (defined in the play’s program as 1920s slang for “a na├»ve but rich investor, a sap, a mark”).

But things are not always as they seem.  Peter buys out Joe’s and Jack’s interests in Her Lesson and the apparent flop goes on to become an unlikely hit on Broadway.  Peter has turned the tables on Joe and Jack, he has won Jane’s hand, and he is on top of the world.  Until, that is, it all comes crashing down upon him with the arrival of A. J. Patterson (Seth Sheldon), an OCD attorney whose client contends (with considerable supporting evidence) that Peter never owned the rights to Her Lesson in the first place.  It looks as if Peter may be nothing more than a “butter and egg man” after all.

Or is he?  The play’s not over yet and you’ll have to see it to find out.

The cast is wonderful across the board with several terrific standouts.  Brian Stillman plays the role of Joe as a loud, trumpeting, cigar-chomping alpha male – something of a cross between Zero Mostel, Jim Belushi and Jackie Gleason – while Matthew Trumbull acts the part of his sidekick, Jack, in truly reptilian fashion.  Shay Gines channels Gloria Swanson in her portrayal of Mary Martin and both Ben Schnickel and Alisha Spielmann are the fresh-faced innocents, Peter and Jane, that any mother would be proud to call her own.

Ricardo Rust, the play’s director, also deserves a special shout-out, not only for his overall success in eliciting such fine performances from his very talented cast but also for his remarkably creative choreography of the play’s scene transitions.  It is all too often the case that audiences at off off Broadway plays must suffer through distracting and time-consuming scene changes that not only do nothing to enhance the theatrical experience but actually detract from it.  Quite the opposite is the case here.  In this revival of The Butter and Egg Man at the Gene Frankel Theatre on Bond Street in lower Manhattan, the scene transitions themselves are entertaining as the entire cast acts in concert, rearranging and transporting furniture and props in a delightfully choreographed dance straight out of the “Roaring Twenties.”