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
Another reframed Shakespeare play, another 13 (I counted) helicopters disturbing performance (these can’t be rerouted?!), another frighteningly lifelike battle utilizing explosions and assault rifles?!
Troilus & Cressida appears to have been selected and certainly was staged to shock. A lengthy combat scene is viscerally difficult to sit through. At a time when war, increased local violence, lack of gun control and terrorism are ubiquitous in the news, it strikes me that subjecting us to something so theatrically realistic and compelling, achieves the complete opposite. Is this something to which we want to become inured?!
Troilus- Andrew Burnap, Pandarus- John Glover, Cressida- Ismenia Mendes
This is also a piece rife with testosterone-filled exposition; long episodes of men comparing muscles (a euphemism), swearing, and daring. A particularly odd choice. Having said that, acting and staging are skillful and energetic.
The latter part of the Trojan War: After playing footsie awhile, with the matchmaking help of her uncle Pandarus (John Glover), spunky Cressida (Ismenia Mendas) and earnest, boyish Troilus (Andrew Burnap) admit to and consummate their love. Shortly thereafter, she’s the object of prisoner exchange ending up in a Greek camp hotly pursued by Diomedes (Zach Appleman) to whom she turns, either attracted or in survival mode.
Because of a promise to his lady?! the great Greek soldier Achilles (seamless last minute replacement Louis Cancelmi) refuses to fight, choosing instead to remain in his tent with his lover Patroclus (Tom Pecinka), listening to heavy metal music. Powers-that-be trick him into one-on-one combat with Troilus’s brother Hector (Bill Heck) by first sending in the played-as-stupid-and-obtuse Ajax (Alex Breaux) who loses without shedding blood.
It’s not clear what the fight will accomplish, but at the Greek camp, Trojans and their hosts remain in peaceful truce. Troilus is led to spy on Cressida by trouble-making Ulysses (Corey Stoll), a civilian advisor who times it so that the Trojan will observe his girl with Diomedes. She’s accused of perfidy by her boyfriend and storms off.
In this version, Achilles then challenges Hector for a national rematch out of pride, though synopses found online indicate he does so to revenge Patroclus’ death which is attributed to Hector. Wounded, he also loses. Grisly war resumes. At the end of the piece, like Caesar at the Forum, Hector is surrounded by Achilles men and ignominiously knifed to death. Troilus mourns him kneeling in a pool of his brother’s blood. We never find out what happens to Cressida.
Ulysses-Corey Stoll and Ajax- Alex Beaux
Andrew Burnap and Ismenia Mendas, the show’s peripheral lovers, are natural actors with appealing chemistry, especially when in denial. Manly Bill Heck (a perfect movie Superhero) imbues Hector with dignity as well as confidence. Alex Breaux’s dumb Ajax is played with absolute credibility. Ulysses (Corey Stoll) is appropriately slimy. Stuck in caricatures, David Harbour (Achilles) and Tom Pecinka (Patroclus) ably carry out the director’s vision. Any play with the splendid John Glover is, to me, worth attending. Here the actor is warm, elegant, and occasionally playful as Pandarus – completely at home with Shakespeare.
Director Daniel Sullivan uses the mostly empty stage evocatively. His solders, with few exceptions, are cliché coarse and/or officious displaying no individuality. (Much of this may be the writing.) I don’t understand the compulsion to insert the currently requisite man in ridiculous drag and several flamboyant gay soldiers. As depicted, war is skin curdling.
Troilus-Andrew Burnap and Hector-Bill Heck
The play is performed in modern dress (David Zinn) which barely registers a blip (so acclimated are theater-going audiences) until soldiers take the stage in recognizable fighting gear.
Mark Menard’s Sound Design is aptly unnerving.
Sound like fun? The curious should be prepared.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening: Diomedes- Zach Appelman and Aeneas- Sanjit De Silva (center) and the Company
The Public Theater’s FREE! Shakespeare in the Park presents
Troilus & Cressida by William Shakespeare
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
The Delacorte Theater- Enter at 81st Street and Central Park West
Through August 14, 2016
In person at The Delacorte
Downtown at Astor Place
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