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Posts Tagged ‘59E59 Theaters’

“Jericho” – A New Play by Jack Canfora, at 59E59 Theaters

Posted on: October 25th, 2013 by Art Leonard No Comments

I attended a performance of “Jericho” a few days ago, then was surprised to see a review in The New York Times the following morning.  Was I attending the official opening?  If so, I wasn’t aware of it, and perhaps the critic from The Times had attended an earlier performance.  In any event, I agreed with the review.  This is a very interesting and thought-provoking play.

Jack Canfora is the author, Evan Bergman the director.  The production at 59E59 is under the auspices of The Directors Company.  The play is set in the NY suburb of Jericho and in Manhattan circa 2005.  On the surface, one might see this as just another dysfunctional Jewish family drama, but it is more, goes deeper, and starts with stereotypes but gets beyond them.  The widowed matriarch of a Jewish family, Rachel is preparing to welcome her two sons – one with wife, the other with new girlfriend – to her annual Thanksgiving dinner in the house in Jericho where the boys grew up.  Of course, all is not well in either son’s relationship, either with his mother or his wife or girlfriend, or there wouldn’t be a play in it, right?  And I don’t want to be handing out plot-spoilers here, so I won’t say more about the plot.

The acting is superbly done.  I was particularly taken with Noel Joseph Allain, the married son who has become more involved with Judaism to what would appear extreme lengths, by the standards of his mother, his wife, and his brother.  Allain gives a subtle performance, to the extent that one has difficulty pinning down his character, but that is part of the allure of the play.  Jill Eikenberry plays the mother, not quite a stereotypical Jewish guilt-tripping mother, but the spinner of plots that will be familiar with anybody who knows this genre.  Andrew Rein plays the other son, whose non-Jewish girlfriend, played by Eleanor Handley, is in many ways the central figure of the play, as the only one with the distance to be a somewhat objective observer of what is going on.  Kevin Isola plays a psychiatrist, but more than a psychiatrist, in his interactions, real or imaginary, with his patient, the girlfriend.  And Carol Todd plays the wife of the older son, trying to cope with the drastic changes in their relationship brought on by his increased affinity to Judaism (and Israel).  Oh, and 9/11 and its impact on members of the NYC community plays a role in this story as well.

From this description, it might sound like this is a play that would mainly be of interest to Jews, particularly New York Jews, but I think there are universal themes being played out that can capture the interest of just about anybody.  This one is definitely worth a visit.

Primary Stages’ Production of “Harbor” by Chad Beguelin

Posted on: July 26th, 2013 by Art Leonard No Comments

Warning: Plot Spoilers!

Primary Stages, an innovative off-Broadway Theater Company, is presenting “Harbor,” a two-act play by Chad Beguelin, directed by Mark Lamos, at 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan.  I saw last night’s performance.  A main draw to see this is the casting of Randy Harrison, a favorite from the “Queer As Folk” TV series, in the role of Kevin Adams-Weller, an aspiring writer recently married to his long-time boyfriend, architect Ted Adams-Weller, played by Paul Anthony Stewart.  Erin Cummings, as Kevin’s sister Donna, and Alexis Molnar, as Donna’s teenage daughter, Lottie, make up the rest of the cast.

The action is mainly set in the living room of the Adams-Weller house in Sag Harbor, New York.  The plotting and structure are pretty much classic – there are two couples here, each a mis-match, and they get sorted out in the second act and redistributed to their “better” partner. The twists and turns to getting there also proceed according to well-worn formulas.  What makes this different, and intriguing, are that the two mismatches are a same-sex married couple and a single mother with her daughter.  The mother is childish and, it is soon revealed, pregnant again, and the daughter of overly mature and sophisticated for her age.  The two men are hardly equals – one a highly trained professional, underemployed due to the recession, the other a childish dreamer.  Is the best re-shuffling to match the childish ones and send them off on their way, and leave the sophisticated child with her uncle’s husband?  Stranger things have happened, of course.  But I never really believed the two men as a stable couple from the introductory scene, and so did not exactly find myself rooting for them to stay together.

The acting is fine, if a bit overwrought at times (and the actors are still settling into their roles, to judge by a few verbal miscues).  Young Alexis Molnar steals the show, being the most interesting character played by the most interesting actor.  Randy Harrison is growing up nicely (!!).  Paul Anthony Stewart takes some time to bring his character into focus, descending a bit into stereotype in the first act, but has a terrific second act.  Erin Cummings is very watchable in the diva role of the “crazy sister” who keeps getting knocked up.   Mr. Beguelin has devised a diverting show that does prompt some thought about the nature of relationships, and the direction doesn’t let him down.  Neither does the technical end – modern dress, of course, with a nicely-designed stage lay-out that proves flexible enough to support a few scenes outside the living room, with effective lighting (Japhy Weiderman) and mood-enhancing incidental music for act-starters and scene-changers (John Gromada). 

I would certainly recommend it for those seeking some summer theater entertainment with a little punch.