It’s 1958. Irene (Holly Fain, superb and believable throughout) has just married Martin (Michael Crane, a yeoman like job) at The St. Regis Hotel. We meet in their well appointed room. The groom is besotted, but his bride leaps away like a frightened pound puppy. He thinks it’s because she’s a virgin, but in fact, Irene declares, she doesn’t love him. It seemed like a good idea at the time?
After initial shock, Martin presses she’ll grow to love him. Then the real boom falls. Irene is in love (and has had sex with) Emil (Joe Tippet, credible, but without distinction), an uneducated grease monkey from a local gas station.
Joe Tippet, Holly Fain, Andrew Burnap, Michael Crane
Add a nosy, dishonest bellboy (Andrew Burnap overacting like crazy) and his ambitious, Hollywood-Polish mom, housemaid Melka (June Gable), and you have the recipe for a first act which is, despite what tries to pass for antics, painful, sad and over long.
Act II opens in 2004 at the apartment of Irene and Martin’s selfish, gay son, Noah (Michael Crane). The earlier couple ended up together for all the wrong reasons. Noah lights into his current squeeze, Leo (Andrew Burnap) ostensibly because he’s prepared crudités for an unexpected visit from Irene (now June Gable). Visits, really any contact, is rare. (There are reasons dating back to childhood.)
Mom, who lives with daughter Shelia (Francesca Faridany), is, to say the least, losing it. She’s been picked up by police, wearing her pajamas, sitting on the floor at an airport gift shop reading Judy Blume (a real Silver touch).
Francesca Faridany, Michael Crane
Sheila’s at her wit’s end. Mom fades from past to present. She’s obstreperous, super critical and literally wanders. Despite other life plans, it’s Noah’s turn. Exposition, including how she happened to stay with Martin, follows. This is a much better written and performed act.
June Gable comes into her own playing what would usually be the Linda Lavin part. (Lavin is Silver’s long time leading lady and muse.) Francesca Faridany is a perfect, stressed out, pissed off Sheila. Andrew Burnap gives Leo natural sweetness.
This is not the Nicky Silver we know – which would be fine if it worked. Class level and Jewish background are recognizable, but are here bereft of familiar dark wit and hard-won wisdom. (Well, there’s a shade of the latter in Act II.) The premise of the story might make a good 1950s, black and white melodrama if we cared. Alas, we don’t.
Director Mark Brokow does the best he can with the material. His skill is obvious.
Except for the pictured “lift,” fight scenes, particularly a slap, read completely false. (J. David Brimmer) Allen Moyer’s Scenic Design (especially the view out Noah’s window) is aptly atmospheric.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Michael Crane, Holly Fain
This Day Forward by Nicky Silver
Directed by Mark Brokow
108 East 15th Street