Saturday, July 20, 2019

TWO'S A CROWD Starring Rita Rudner at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Robert Yacko and Rita Rudner in TWO'S A CROWD.  Photo by Carol Rosergg.

Rita Rudner is a comedic icon.  A frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show, she has starred in several HBO specials including Rita Rudner’s One Night Stand, Born to Be Mild, and Married Without Children, in Rita Rudner: Live from Las Vegas on PBS, and in Rita Rudner: A Tale of Two Dresses on Amazon Prime.  She has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York; at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles; and at the MGM Grand, Harrah’s, and the Venetian in Las Vegas.  In fact she holds the record for the longest running solo comedy show in the history of Las Vegas.

Now she has returned to the stage in New York City, starring in Two’s a Crowd at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  Ms Rudner co-wrote the light-hearted two-act musical comedy with her husband, Martin Bergman, who also directs the play.
 
Given Ms Rudner’s resume, I was anticipating enjoying a cheerful romp of a play and eventually I was rewarded.  But it took much longer than I had expected and required a bit of patience on my part.  I found the play’s first act to be derivative and predictable and I must admit to having been disappointed.

The play begins with Wendy (Rita Rudner) and Tom (Robert Yacko) being forced to share a room in a Las Vegas hotel as a result of a computer glitch that resulted in the hotel’s overbooking its rooms.  Wendy and Tom couldn’t be more different.  She is as uptight as a woman can be and is only in Las Vegas on her own in an attempt to decide whether or not to leave her husband, Gus (Brian Lohmann), in light of her recent discovery of his infidelity.  Tom, in sharp contrast, is free-wheeling and spontaneous and is in Las Vegas to compete in the World Series of Poker.  Which means, of course, that since they have absolutely nothing in common, Wendy and Tom are sure to end up in bed together.  They do.  And there’s’ your first act.

And then the second act opened and I actually felt as if I was watching an altogether different show.  Gus unexpectedly appears and it is no longer quite so obvious what to expect.  All four of the play’s actors – Ms Rudner, Robert Yacko, Kelly Holden Bashar, and Brian Lohmann – express an exuberance that I found largely lacking in the first act.  Even the music of the second act struck me as far more creative and entertaining than the tunes in the first.

Both Rita Rudner and Robert Yacko were fully accomplished in their respective roles.  But I was surprised and delighted to find that the two supporting actors - Kelly Holden Bashar and Brian Lohmann – were even more entertaining than the two stars.  Ms Bashar plays two very different roles: she is both Louise, VP of Hotel Operations, and Lili, a hotel housekeeper – and she is absolutely terrific in both.  And I thought that her rendition of Lili’s Lament was a real star turn.

Brian Loehmann plays three different roles and handles them all with great aplomb.  In addition to being Wendy’s husband, Gus, he is Joe, a room service waiter, and another unexpected hotel guest.  And his rendition of Fix It All was, like Lili’s Lament, a real show stopper.

So the bottom line is this: even if you’re tempted to leave after the first act, don’t do it.  Stick it out and you’ll ultimately be rewarded by a very entertaining show.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT - 5 Plays by Havel, Pinter and Beckett

L-R: Michael Laurence and David Barlow in AUDIENCE by Vaclav Havel, part of HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT.  Photo by Stan Barouh.
Vaclav Havel will not only be remembered as a remarkably talented Czechoslovakian poet and playwright but, even more importantly, as the political dissident most responsible for challenging Czechoslovakia’s Communist dictatorship.  During his lifetime, all of Havel ’s works were banned in Czechoslovakia and Havel himself was imprisoned for four years but the playwright ultimately prevailed, contributing to the overthrow of his country’s Communist government, becoming its first freely elected President and, subsequent to the separation of the Czech Republic from Slovakia, becoming the President of the Czech Republic as well. 

Perhaps most noteworthy among Havel’s works are what have come to be known as “the Vanek plays,” one act autobiographical plays in which the protagonist, Ferdinand Vanek, a stand-in for Havel himself, seeks to “live in truth,” refusing to make even small compromises with what he perceives to be a fundamentally dishonest system, lest such compromises ultimately lead to the most insufferably evil consequences.

Potomac Theatre Project (PTP/NYC), was founded in 1987 and moved to New York in 2007.  This year, in association with Middlebury College, it is staging a limited engagement of works by Vaclav Havel, Harold, Pinter, Samuel Beckett, and Tom Stoppard at The Atlantic Stage 2 on West 16th Street in downtown Manhattan.  One half of the season’s program, Havel: The Passion of Thought, is devoted to three of Havel’s “Vanek plays” – Audience, Private View, and Protest – bookended by Pinter’s The New World Order as a prologue to Havel’s works and Beckett’s Catastrophe (which actually was written in tribute to Havel) as an epilogue to them.  The other half of the repertory season showcases Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth.

In all three of the “Vanek plays,” David Barlow plays the role of Vanek and he is absolutely superb, beautifully conveying with understated elegance the tortuous moral dilemmas confronting not only Vanek himself but also those with whom he is in contact.  In Audience, Vanek is working at a brewery, the only job he can get without compromising his principles since his release from prison when it quickly becomes apparent to him that he is being spied upon by the authorities and pressured to betray himself.  Michael Laurence, who plays the Brewmaster pressuring him, is delightfully entertaining in his complex serio-comic role.
 
L-R: Christopher Marshall, David Barlow, and Emily Kron in PRIVATE VIEW, part of HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT.  Photo by Stan Barouh.
In Private View, Vanek is invited to a private viewing of the newly re-furnished home of his friends Michael (Christopher Marshall) and Vera (Emily Kron).  In this, the zaniest and most slapstick of the three “Vanek plays,” Michael and Vera cannot seem to abide Vanek’s refusal to simply accept their conventional wisdom on everything from sex and family to cooking and home furnishing.  It is a highly amusing and telling example of how difficult it is for some people to accept that others don’t necessarily share their values on everything (nor should they) and they tell it with ribald gusto.

L-R: David Barlow and Danielle Skraastad in PROTEST, part ofpart of HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT.  Photo by Stan Barouh. 
In Protest (the very best of the three “Vanek plays”), Vanek confronts a much more difficult and complicated issue: Stanekova (Danielle Skraastad) is, like Vanek, another very talented writer but, unlike him, she is no dissident.  Rather, she has chosen to make her peace with the authorities, accepting their interference with her creative work in exchange for their granting her the opportunity to earn a good living as an approved writer for government-regulated television.  But does this necessarily mean that she is a sell-out or less principled than Vanek?  To his credit,  Havel has the intellectual integrity to deal with this issue head-on.  Might it not be the case that Stanekova’s willingness to compromise with the government and work behind the scenes in attempting to achieve greater freedom and better lives for all Czechoslovakians could actually prove to be more effective than Vanek’s own outright defiance?  And by absolutely refusing to compromise on anything, might Vanek really just be seeking to gratify his own ego?  Ms Skraastad does an outstanding job playing devil’s advocate to Vanek’s self-assurance.

Pinter’s The New World Order, in which an unidentified Man (David Barlow) is menaced in an interview room by Desmond and Lionel (Michael Laurence and Christopher Marshall), universalizes the issues evoked in the subsequent “Vanek plays” and enriches the overall production.  But I was somewhat disappointed in Beckett’s Catastrophe being tacked on as an epilogue.  At least one of the liberties taken with Beckett’s original script, the substitution of a request for a drink rather than the relighting of a cigar, may have seemed inconsequential but it did make a difference and not for the better.

Notwithstanding that minor nit-pick, Havel: The Passion of Thought is an outstanding production and well worth seeing.  (I haven’t yet seen PTP/NYC’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth but I’m certainly looking forward to it.  If it is anywhere near as good as Havel: The Passion of Thought, you’ll be reading another positive review from me very soon.)



 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

HANDBAGGED by Moira Buffini Premieres at 59E59 Theatres as Part of Brits Off Broadway

L-R: Beth Hylton, Anita Carey, Kate Fahy, and Susan Lynskey in HANDBAGGED.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Although they were born just six months apart, Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher entered the world under strikingly different circumstances: Elizabeth was born into one of the world’s oldest and most illustrious monarchies and her future role as her country’s Queen was virtually assured; Margaret was born the daughter of a grocer, rising through her own merits to become her country’s first female Prime Minister.  In the 1980s, the two “grande dames” met regularly behind closed palace doors and it would be enlightening to know just what they said to one another in those private moments.

Unfortunately, neither Moira Buffini nor anyone else (other than the two women themselves) could let us in on those secrets but Ms Buffini has done the next best thing.  She has written Handbagged, a totally fictionalized re-imagining of what might have been said behind those closed doors and, even if this two-act, Brechtian comedy is a theatrical version of “fake news,” it still has the ring of truth about it and is great fun.

Handbagged was a hit in London’s West End and now is enjoying its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan as part of this year’s Brits Off Broadway program.  And  what could be more appropriate for a Brits Off Broadway program than a play about Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher?

The play is really about Margaret Thatcher and her conservative philosophy, not the Queen, with the Queen’s presence primarily serving as a contrast to the Iron Lady’s ideological extremism.  One might have assumed that the Queen would be the more conservative, perhaps even reactionary, of the two - she does, after all, embody the establishment – but then one would be wrong.  In fact, Queen Elizabeth was the more moderate, maybe even the more progressive of the two.  It may be counter-intuitive but that was the case.  Or at least it was in Ms Buffini’s opinion (and in my own).  We never really can know for sure since the Queen is constitutionally prohibited from overtly expressing anything other than support for whatever government is in power in Great Britain at any given time.

Both Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher are larger than life figures and it was perhaps that realization that led Ms Buffini to conclude that neither character could be captured on stage in her entirety by a single actor.  That is just idle speculation on my part but the fact is that the playwright did see fit to cast two separate actors in the role of the Queen (one older and one younger) and two different actors in the role of Margaret Thatcher (again, one older and one younger).  Or it may be that the playwright wanted to show how both characters had changed over the years (although, honestly, I didn’t see much evidence of such evolution in either one).  Or maybe the playwright wanted to show how faulty are our memories of our own younger selves (though I didn’t discern much of that either).

Be that as it may, the playwright has written the play with two Queens and two Prime Ministers, not just one of each.  In this production, Anita Carey plays the elderly Queen Elizabeth and Beth Hilton plays the younger Liz.  Similarly, Kate Fahy plays the older Margaret Thatcher and Susan Lynskey plays the younger Mags.  And fortunately all four actors are really spot on in their performances.

But while the playwright felt that the two leading roles required a doubling of the number of actors performing them, she had no such misgivings regarding the production’s other roles – and there are seventeen of them!  To perform those seventeen parts, she determined that just two actors would suffice.  Actor 1 (Cody Leroy Wilson) plays eight different roles including those of Kenneth Kaunda (the President of Zambia), Nancy Reagan (in drag), Michael Shea (the Queen’s Press Secretary), and Kenneth Clarke (the Conservative Party MP and Cabinet Member known as the “Big Beast”), among others.  And Actor 2 (John Lescault) goes him even one better, playing nine different roles including those of Denis Thatcher (Margaret’s husband), Gerry Adams (the leader of the Sinn Fein), Ronald Reagan, Rupert Murdoch, and Prince Philip, among others.

The two male actors are truly remarkable in the range of their performances and it is they who turn the play into the Brechtian carnival it eventually becomes.  And it is they who enable the play to shift seamlessly from a discussion of Margaret Thatcher’s role in the conduct of the Falklands War with Argentina to her granting the United States the right to use Britain as an airbase from which to launch a bombing attack on Libya to her reluctance to accept black majority rule in Zambia or to apply anti-apartheid sanctions to South Africa.

Ms Buffini has gone on record that she has “no sympathy for Margaret Thatcher or anything she stands for.”  Indeed, she has admitted to being “glad when she was dead” and has referred to her as a “monstrous woman” and a “villainess.”  But despite her personal antipathy toward the Iron Lady, Ms Buffini has been exceptionally fair and even-handed in her writing, eschewing the opportunity to satirize her or to take any cheap shots.  It is a credit to her, not only as a playwright but as a human being, and it has resulted in her having created a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking work that should appeal both to conservatives and progressives (as well as to royalists and anti-royalists alike).





Friday, June 7, 2019

PUBLIC SERVANT by Bekah Brunstetter Premieres at Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row

L-R: Christine Bruno and Chris Henry Coffey in PERFECT SERVANT.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
NBC’s award-winning hit series, This Is Us, is a remarkable piece of work.  It deals sensitively with issues ranging from physical disability and infertility (Kate, one of the drama’s principal characters, is clinically overweight and successfully confronted her own infertility problem) to the pressures of balancing the strains of work against those of family (Randall, Kate’s adoptive brother, elected to the City Council following a successful career in the financial world, confronts the problem of satisfying the needs of his constituents with that of maintaining loving relationships with his wife and three daughters.)

Bekah Brunstetter, a co-producer and writer on the show, has drawn on the just those themes in writing Public Servant, a terrific three-hander currently premiering at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row on West 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan.  This is readily understandable since Ms Brunstetter has struggled with infertility issues herself and since her own father served as a County Commissioner for many years.  Ms Brunstetter readily acknowledges that Public Servant was inspired by her recollections of her father’s political career and the problems he faced in raising a family, working in the private sector, and seeking to please all of his constituents at the same time which was, of course, a near impossible task.

Public Servant is being produced by Theater Breaking Through Barriers (TBTB), under the Artistic Direction of Nicholas Viselli.  TBTB is an acclaimed Off-Broadway company that integrates able-bodied actors with artists with disabilities. Originally founded 40 years ago as Theater by the Blind, the company's mission is “to change the image of people with disabilities from one of dependence to independence, to fight stereotypes and misperceptions associated with disability, and to show how vibrant, fluid and exuberant the work of artists with disabilities can be”.

(It may be worth noting at this point that Christine Bruno, one of the three actors in Public Servant is, herself, a staunch advocate for the disabled, serving as chair of the SAG-AFTRA NY Local Board Performers with Disabilities Committee (PWD) and is a member of the SAG-AFTRA National PWD and Actors Equity EEOC Committees.)

The central character in Public Servant is Ed Sink (Chris Henry Coffey), a church-going small town politician in North Carolina who has the very best of intentions but who may have bitten off more than he can chew.  (Rather like Randall in that respect in This Is Us.)

Miriam Hart (Christine Bruno), one of Ed’s constituents and suffering from cerebral palsy, has arrived unannounced at Ed’s office in the hopes of soliciting his assistance in selling her recently-deceased mother’s house.  The problem is that plans are underway to build a new beltway in the town which could render her mother’s house worthless and she is seeking compensation for that loss.  All of which could interfere with Ed’s own pet project to build a pool in the town.  It really does seem that you never can do just one nice thing for someone – certainly not without pissing off someone else.

Moreover, Miriam is also desperately seeking to become pregnant, so far to no avail.  (Rather like Kate, I’d say, in This Is Us.)

Which brings us to the third character in Public Servant, Ed’s daughter, Hannah (Anna Lentz).   Insecure, promiscuous, insensitive and shallow, but with all the insufferable liberal certainty that only a nineteen-year-old can muster, she has come home to visit her father.  But she certainly doesn’t feel that she can tell him that she’s pregnant.

In her note on how to stage Public Servant, the playwright has suggested that the play be thought of “as a triangle that’s being constantly turned. When one character is the focus, the other two rest at the corners, and often participate in the focus character’s world.”  And the director, Geordie Broadwater, has succeeded in doing just that. 

Thus Miriam’s disability, her infertility, her problem selling her mother’s house – all are central to her but somewhat peripheral to Ed and Hannah.  And yet it is Ed who does participate in her world, at least to the extent of assisting her in selling her mother’s house.  Similarly, Hannah’s pregnancy is central to her even if it is peripheral to Ed and Miriam.  And yet Miriam ends up playing an outsize role in assisting Hannah in her time of need and Ed, as it turns out, is there for her as well.

I’m reminded of the old maxim “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” and I think the play truly succeeds at conveying that message, particularly in regard to today’s pro-life/pro-choice conundrum.  And it does so with great sensitivity.

L-R: Chris Henry Coffey and Anna Lentz in PUBLIC SERVANT.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
All three actors deliver superb performances.  Chris Henry Coffey perfectly embodies the small town businessman, politician, and father who really wants to do the right thing and sometimes finds himself overwhelmed by life itself but somehow manages to succeed in the end.  Christine Bruno is incredible, exhibiting a fortitude in the face of adversity that we’d all be well-advised to emulate and an empathy for others even when their circumstances are antithetical to her own.  And Anna Lentz, in her Off-Broadway debut has brilliantly captured the inconsistencies, contradictions, and vagaries of youth.  I expect that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.

The set design by Edward T. Morris is creative but I don’t think it really works.  The stage is basically set as an outdoor scene in which two white picket fences are set at an angle to one another and intended, I think, to fulfill the playwright’s suggestion that the play be thought of “as a triangle that’s being constantly turned.”  And to be sure, it does do that.

But the set also obscures the distinction between inside and outside.  Sections of the fence swing open and closed to reveal and conceal interior scenes – an office, a clinic, a home – and perhaps the intent there is to suggest that things are often not what they seem when one goes behind the scenes.  If so, I get the point but I found the process unnecessarily disconcerting.






















Thursday, May 2, 2019

CAROLINE'S KITCHEN Premieres at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Caroline Langrishe and Tom England in CAROLINE'S KITCHEN.  Photo by Sam Taylor.

Caroline Mortimer (Caroline Langrishe) is a well-known television personality with her own cooking show (Caroline’s Kitchen).  Her husband, Mike (Aden Gillett), is a successful banker with a penchant for golf.  And their son, Leo (Tom England), has just graduated with a “First” from Cambridge.  As Leo puts it, his mother presents herself as “the perfect woman with the perfect life and the perfect marriage in the perfect house with the perfect friends.”:And so it would seem.

Caroline and Mike are on the verge of selling their house in anticipation of paying off their son’s school debt, gifting him with a flat of his own, and embarking on the next stage of their own presumably ideal lives.  And tonight they are planning a champagne celebration for Leo.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about everything.  For starters, things really are not quite what they seem.  Caroline may be an admired television personality with an enviable marriage but she is also a discombobulated, religiously fanatic, alcoholic carrying on an affair with Graeme (James Sutton), a carpenter working at her home.  Mike may be a successful banker and golf aficionado but he is also a victim of child abuse, bi-polar, wallowing in remorse over his own previous infidelity, and seemingly incapable of expressing true affection for his wife of son.  And Leo is a cigarette-smoking, vegan, semi-closeted homosexual (Caroline knows he’s gay but Mike does not), who is heartbroken to have learned of his own partner’s infidelity and who plans to leave for Syria to help the refugees before the climate change apocalypse that he deems inevitable destroys us all.

Not to be outdone by the Mortimers, Amanda (Jasmyn Banks), Caroline’s inept, insouciant, and over-sexed assistant, is in the throes of her own affair with Dominic, a married man (although that doesn’t prevent her from flirting outrageously with Graeme).  And, as if not to be left out, it is then that Graeme’s own mentally unbalanced, previously institutionalized, and violence-prone wife, Sally (Elizabeth Boag),  bursts upon the scene and all hell breaks loose.

The entire entourage of fidelity-challenged dysfunctional characters appear in Caroline’s Kitchen, written by Torben Betts and directed by Alastair Whatley, currently enjoying its US premiere as part of the Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  The play (originally entitled Monogamy) is a classic example of British slapstick humor – a kind of hellzapoppin’ farcical pastiche, replete with mistaken identities, bumbling husbands, sexual revelations, the mandatory homosexual, and just plain tom-foolery.  The genre has never been  my cuppa but if that is the sort of thing that floats your boat, you won’t be disappointed by this one.


Monday, April 22, 2019

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN Premieres at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Matt Sheahan and Dan March in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain.  Photo by Lidia Crisafulli.

Broad, slapstick British humor may not be everybody’s cup of tea but if it does happen to be yours, you might want to catch The Real MacGuffins (Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan) in Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, currently enjoying its US premiere as part of this year’s Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  The Real MacGuffins, a leading sketch group on the British comedy circuit, adapted Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain from a pamphlet of the same name issued by the Americn War Office in 1942 to prepare GIs being sent to England during World War II for the idiosyncrasies of British (life ranging from cricket to the country’s inclement weather and from the near-incomprehensibility of the British monetary system to Brits’ predilection for warm beer).

The play takes place in 1942 when a horde of American GIs have arrived in England only to be confronted by a people ostensibly speaking the same language as Americans do but with so many customs so different from our own as to make social intercourse immensely difficult.  Two American officers, Lieutenant Schultz (James Millard) and Colonel Atwood (Dan March) have been given the responsibility of instructing the newly-arrived American troops and they are joined in their effort by a British officer, Major Gibbons (Matt Sheahan).

The characters are just what we have come to expect in British productions of this genre.  Lieutenant Schultz is another version of Jack Armstrong.  Colonel Atwood is the Iowa farm boy who has risen through the ranks but still remembers the dance steps to “kick the pig.”  And Major Gibbons is the relatively effete officer whose mother (also played by James Millard) still embarrasses him by telling his associates of the ballet lessons he took as a child.

The play breaks no new ground.  The characters are stereotypical and caricature-ish.  But that is not to say that they aren’t entertaining for they most certainly are.  Moreover, all three performers are consummate comedians and, at least at the performance I attended, the audience really seemed to love them and to enjoy the show.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Gordon Clapp Stars in TRICK OR TREAT at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Gordon Clapp and Jenni Putney in TRICK OR TREAT.  Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Every family has its secrets and the Moynihans certainly are no exception.  What is going on between Johnny Moynihan (Gordon Clapp) and Nancy (Kathy Manfre), his wife of more than 40 years, now that her Alzheimer’s disease is worsening?  What transpired between Johnny’s son, Teddy (David Mason) and Johnny’s neighbor, Hannah (Kathy McCafferty), years ago that ended Teddy and Hannah’s romantic relationship - and did Johnny have anything to do with it?  Who is Sharon - and what has become of her?

Johnny and Nancy have kept the family’s secrets for years but now that Nancy’s Alzheimer’s has worsened, can she still be relied on to do so? Claire (Jenni Putney), who is Johnny and Nancy’s daughter and Danny’s sister, never was privy to the family’s secrets herself but that’s all about to change tonight.  It is Halloween and Claire has just received a tearful call from her father imploring her to come to his house right away where all eventually wiil be revealed.

Teddy, as it turns out, is a cop, a police captain in fact and in line to become the next Chief of Police, an appointment that would delight Johnny since Teddy would be following in the footsteps of Johnny’s own father who once had held that post.  But Teddy’s appointment is far from certain.  For one thing, Claire’s influential husband, Sal, who publishes the town paper, vehemently opposes it.  Moreover, some in the town continue to hold Danny responsible for the “murder” of Normie Beauchamp, despite the fact that Danny was acquitted of all charges in that incident.  Additionally, that “bitch” Hannah still has it in for him.  And, finally, should the secret surrounding Sharon be disclosed, it could mark the end of Danny’s career.

Trick or Treat by Jack Neary is an exceptionally well-written play – a family drama, a mystery, and a black comedy all in one – currently enjoying its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  Neary’s ear for dialogue is terrific but that’s not all the play has going for it: it also has been blessed with a truly extraordinary cast.

David Mason is tough, bitter and menacing as Johnny’s son, Teddy, while Jenni Putney conveys an equally convincing sense of cold, calculating objectivity, tempered by concern for both of her parents, as his daughter, Claire.  Kathy McCafferty is splendid as the truly nosy, obnoxious, trouble-making “bitch,” Hannah, and Kathy Manfre is effective as Nancy, Johnny’s wife, suffering from Alzheimer’s.

But when all is said and done, the play really belongs to Gordon Clapp.  His is an award-worthy performance as Johnny, a working-class stiff whose own life never measured up to that of his father and who now seeks to live his life vicariously through his son.  He is a man who finds little to take pride in himself beyond the size of the candy bars he distributes to the neighborhood’s children on Halloween.  But at the same time, he is a man deeply in love with his wife, Nancy, and devoted to her care who, nonetheless, places the preservation of his family (as he perceives it) above all else – including Nancy’s well-being.  It is a performance that will remain with you long after you have left the theater.