The Violin — A Kitchen Sink Drama

The term Kitchen Sink Drama was coined to describe a British cultural movement of the late 1950s, early 1960s featuring angry, young, working class men disillusioned with society. While the two younger characters in this play live below even that economic level, its gritty realism seems to aspire to the genre.

We’re in a basement tailor shop on Avenue A (East Village, Manhattan) that looks the same as it probably did when grey-haired Giovanni (Robert Lupone) took over from his father. Harry Feiner’s splendid Set Design covers ever inch with such specific detail, one might sneeze from accumulated dust and wonder who last picked up when. Gio no longer hears his phone ring and regularly pierces fingers, yet soldiers on as if nothing has changed.

Kevin Isola; Peter Bradbury

Brothers Bobby (Peter Bradbury) – a bitter punk in his mid 30s and Terry (Kevin Isola) – a sweet, retarded boy in his 20s consider the premises a second home. It’s clear that Gio has acted as a surrogate parent since theirs died. (The actual nature of the boys’ relationship to the old man is unclear for some time.) Neither being educated, Bobby takes care of Terry evincing a pendulum swing of affection and frustrated disparagement anyone would find confusing.

Terry has just walked off a taxi driving job secured for him by his older brother who appears to live by small-time thievery. Bobby is furious. Before abandoning the cab on the street, its driver removed a violin left by a passenger. After an excessive amount of redundant, character exposition, Bobby decides they’ll hold the instrument for ransom. A little research reveals it’s a Stradivarius, worth four million dollars. Easy Street seems within reach.

Peter Bradbury, Robert Lupone, Kevin Isola

Despite some really good writing, The Violin has several problems. It’s top heavy (Act I) – in need of editing. Bobby has little to distinguish himself from a cliché. Gio, who has his own unfortunately partly telegraphed secrets, is the weakest character onstage, both in terms of original writing and behavior. Without adequately weighing in, he disturbs the credibility of what’s going on. It doesn’t help that we don’t buy Robert Lupone’s performance. At the least, the audience should sense inner turmoil whose reasons come out towards the end. Instead we watch unlikely passivity and ambiguity.

Kevin Isola; Peter Bradbury

Peter Bradbury’s Bobby is well played. We buy his volatility and amorality. One wishes the actor had come up with something to define his role beyond writing, however.

Kevin Isola delivers a marvelous Terry. Even when still, his pliable innocence and devotion to Bobby are apparent. Flash tantrums are visceral, yet never over the top. We actually feel the fugue state this boy almost always occupies.

Director Joseph Discher does a fine job indicating both emotional and the physical sides of the brothers’ relationship. Neither Bobby nor Gio have personal idiosyncrasies which would help make them real, however. Note: To have Terry deliver fast food dinner which sits in bags uneaten and then is swept away for the next scene makes zero sense. Characters can eat and talk.

The play didn’t get to me and should have.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Kevin Isola, Robert Lupone, Peter Bradbury

The Directors Company in association with
Shadowcatcher Entertainment presents
The Violin by Dan McCormick
Directed by Joseph Discher
59E59 Theaters
Through October 14, 2017

About Alix Cohen (784 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.