The Amateurs – Satire! Morality! Mortality! Doves!

A Medieval troop of deadpan, fourth rate Biblical Players is trying to outrun the plague. Not a bad premise for satire. In fact, author Jordan Harrison manages not only to give us a classic backstage scenario but to address morality, mortality, freedom of thought, God, and women’s issues. Pathos is stylized but questions resonate. Except for a contemporary parenthesis which bifurcates the tale, the script is wry, entertaining, and smarter than it looks at first glance.

The content of said naturalistic parenthesis, acted by Michael Cyril Creighton standing in for Harrison and Quincy Tyler Bernstine as herself should unquestionably have been included in the body of the piece. Not only does the jarring segment harm cohesion, but based on the playwright’s obvious cleverness, it seems lazy. This is not to say you won’t enjoy the show, just that this could be more successfully crafted.

Michael Cyril Creighton

“Noah’s Ark” – replete with the Seven Deadly Sins in terrific comedia dell’arte masks – is being prepared for an Italian festival sponsored by a local Duke. Should the players find favor, they hope to be invited inside city walls to wait out the epidemic.

Larking (Thomas Jay Ryan), the company’s bombastic leader, plays God. Yoeman-like Brom (Kyle Beltran) plays Noah, his wife, notably without a first name, is acted by Hollis (Quincy Tyler Bernstine). Rona (Jennifer Kim) plays Mrs. Shem and later, both Mr. and Mrs. Shem. (Doubling and even tripling up is inventively handled.) Hollis’s brother Henry who dies of plague is later replaced by a traveling Physic/Doctor with a secret (Greg Keller). The only company member not on stage until they’re desperate for an extra body, is set and prop maker Gregory (Michael Cyril Creighton) who provides narrative comments.

Jennifer Kim, Quincy Tyler Bernstine

There are obvious and clandestine relationships, hierarchical arguments, deaths, births and colloquial discussions of ontology. Does the religious play make any difference; does art? When Hollis decides Mrs. Noah might not be so acquiescent, everything tips.

The real time company delivers humor without marking jokes, which is to say admirably as if characters are unaware. Of the cast, Greg Keller is sympathetic and credible and Quincy Tyler Bernstine is a pithy pleasure to watch both as herself and Hollis. Michael Cyril Creighton, a newfound treasure, has impeccable, understated timing worth clocking in any theatrical endeavor.

Greg Keller, Thomas Jay Ryan, Quincy Tyler Bernstine

Director Oliver Butler keeps tone just right whether in 2018 or the 14th Century. Restricted movement and singsong recitation during “Noah” aptly differentiates itself from natural banter afterwards. Several characters could have manifest more distinctive attributes, however.

Jessica Pabst’s homespun Costumes are just right before and after the troop upgrades. Raphael Mishner’s Masks and Puppet Design are splendid. (Wait till you see Noah’s dove.)

Scenic Design by David Zinn is charming, painterly, imaginative. The well appointed, wheeled wagon morphs into a stage with ingenuity and period suggestion, looking fully like an illustration from one’s favorite children’s book. Evocation of animals two by two is marvelous. Nor does Zinn muddy up presentation by giving us a painted scrim.

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Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Jennifer Kim, above- Thomas Jay Ryan, Kyle Beltram

The Amateurs by Jordan Harrison
Directed by Oliver Butler
Through March 29, 2018
Vineyard Theatre    
108 East 15th Street

About Alix Cohen (916 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.