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Laura Braza

Jericho From Lilliom Which Inspired Carousel


Ferenc Molnár ‘s 1909 Hungarian play Lilliom has appeared in many incarnations on stage (The English translation reached Broadway in 1921), film, radio, and as the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Its best known treatment Americanized and softened the wrenching story. For those of you curious about its roots, Fritz Lang’s gritty 1934 film is thought to be truest to initial vision. A very young Charles Boyer plays the carousel barker. Each version made adjustments.

Like a silent film made from the play, Michael Weller sets his story in 1932 Coney Island rather than Budapest. “People are starving across the land…but always, there are moments of grace,” we’re told by top-hatted Narrator Dr. Ruhl (Jerzy Gwiazdowski – lacks focus and charisma) Innocents Julie (Hannah Sloat), and her friend, Mary (Ginna M. Doyle – abrasive overacting until her last scene), are respectively kitchen help and maid at a Catholic Women’s Inn – which dictates curfew. The well known story:

Hannah Sloat and Vasile Flutur

One night at the carousel, barker Jericho (Vasile Flutur) flirts with Julie just a bit more than the other girls. His boss (and lover) Mrs. Mosca (Stephanie Pope) erupts with jealousy banning the girl from her ride. Jericho doesn’t like to be told what to do. Argument ensues. He either quits or gets fired. Julie’s calm, plucky, self possession makes the roustabout think she’s experienced, especially when she shoos Mary away and agrees to stay with him, aware she’ll also lose her job. He’s completely thrown to discover she’s a good girl. Despite huge, obvious differences, they’re soulmates.

The two move in with Jericho’s Aunt, Mrs. Hendricks (Erinn Holmes – one note here; better as a judge in Heaven’s court) and her son Fritz (Jamal James – solid, low key performance) who have a photography studio. His relatives are protective of Julie while Jericho is tolerated.

Hannah Sloat and Vasile Flutur

Jericho ostensibly looks for work finding little or none. Frustration and loss of self-respect keep him in perpetual temper. Though he loves her, Jericho often strikes Julie. She unconditionally excuses his behavior, going so far as to say she never felt it afterwards. (Abuse issues anyone?) Mrs. Mosca tries to lure her prize attraction back, almost succeeding before Julie reveals she’s pregnant.

Egged on by his reprobate friend, Tink (Jack Sochet who hasn’t fully fleshed out his role), Jericho ambivalently commits a crime in order to secure money for his incipient family…and dies. At Heaven’s Court, he’s offered a day to return to earth and make amends. The last scene depicts this bumbling attempt to convey love to Julie and his daughter Lisa (a very good Noelle Franco).

Stephanie Pope and Vasile Flutur

The play is uneven. Its biggest misstep is the device of Dr. Ruhl who’s irritating and distracting (ever present) throughout. Everything he communicates could be better taken care of by dialogue. While Fritz has a lovely, poetic yet credible speech about intuition gleaned through the lens and the piece’s last scene is poignant, Heaven’s Court takes on a broad, almost satirical tone that doesn’t fit the rest of the play.

As Jericho, Vasile Flutur seems neither arrogant nor tortured enough to fill historically sizable shoes. Only at the site of the robbery do we feel turmoil in what’s essentially physical manifestation.

Two outstanding actors shine:

Hannah Sloat inhabits just the right quiet resolve. It’s less important that we understand Julie’s choice than that we believe the character – and we do. ( In Weller’s program message to us, he states part of his attraction to the piece is the mystery of human behavior.) One could cast this artist in O’Neill or Odets and her unfussy truth would come through. She’s all of a piece, superbly grounded.

Also grounded, Stephanie Pope portrays Mrs. Mosca as if having given her much thought. Raw temper feels as visceral as practiced seduction. Pride and determination are ever present. Nor does Pope minimize the character’s deep attachment to Jericho. She’s thinking and feeling even when inactive.

Director Laura Braza seems to have taken a loose hand. Good actors are swell, the poor ones ungoverned. Pacing is fine, stage movement effective if not creative.

Bevin McNally’s Costumes dress Julie appropriately, Mary scandalously, and Jericho in apparel he couldn’t afford and wouldn’t wear on the job.

Act I Set is more practical than imaginative, though a pop-up paper Coney Island is charming. Act II is both well realized and dramatically employed. Also credited with properties, Julia Noulin-Merat unfortunately provides a star that looks like silly putty dregs.

Coney Island sounds by Matthew Fischer are spot-on though need to come on with more of a snap when the Dr. magically points.

Production Photos by Dustin Moore
Opening: Jack Sochet, Vasile Flutur, Jerzy Gwiazowski

The Attic Theater Company presents
Jericho by Michael Weller
From the play Lilliom by Ferenc Molnár
Directed by Laura Braza
The Wild Project 195 East 3rd Street
Through February 10, 2018
Click for Tickets 

Listen to Alix Cohen talk about covering theater on WAT-CAST.

Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone? – A Nostalgic Journey with a Modern Wake-Up Call


Tommy Flowers (David Gow) sits in the first class cabin of a Miami-New York flight sipping Champagne and wooing the attendant (Noelle Franco) who pours it. “You’ve got great legs. Are they as nice all the way up?” he says, too loud and inappropriate for first class etiquette—the first giveaway that perhaps he hasn’t made it here via a regular path. Minutes later, Tommy reveals his game. “You know how to get yourself into the first class, right? You hang out near the gates where they keep the stack of first class boarding passes long enough to grab one.” 

This auspicious opening immediately pins Tommy Flowers onto a historical timeline, back in the pre-electronic era. It’s wonderfully nostalgic. Remember the days when the term “unplugging” referred to a hairdryer or a fridge—rather than to a human with a social media overload? Yes, Tommy is still in those blissfully old-fashioned days when passenger check-in wasn’t done via smartphones, but by an airline clerk, who manually filled out a piece of paper. Today, Tommy’s paper trick—as well as many of his other acts, conjured up and written by Tony Award-winner Terrence McNally—simply wouldn’t work. 

David Gow

But in old-time New York they do, at least for a while. And so the brave and defiant Miami native arrives in New York to conquer the big city—in his own way. 

Once the romance with the flight attendant withers, Tommy ends up on the street, not flustered in the least. He asks for money, fights with a destitute old actor, Ben Delight (Daniel O-Shea), for a lucrative panhandling corner, makes best friends with an oversized sheep dog, Arnold (Sam Garber), and generally has fun. He’s a floater who can be both mean and friendly, offensive and affectionate, annoying and funny. He’s a slacker who wants “to do everything” but does nothing—except rebel against the established societal rules. But despite the bravado, there are skeletons in Tommy’s closet—sickly parents, a married but lonely brother, a former girlfriend, being unhappily stuck in Florida’s boredom, and surviving a car crash that killed his friend.  Inside Tommy’s red bag that contains his life possessions, strange items are hidden: a bomb-making manual along with a clock, wires, and some spare parts. 

A series of skits and vignettes, under the guidance of director Laura Braza, and produced by Gow, take us through Tommy’s Big Apple roller coaster of highs and lows. In a moment of generosity, Tommy takes Ben to shop (or rather shoplift) at Bloomingdales.  There, in the fashionable store’s ladies room, he meets his next passion—Nedda Lemon (Emma Geer), a talented music student who has veered off the right path, and stashed a few camisoles into her violin case. Despite her initial anger directed at Tommy, she eventually gives into his charm, and the two realize they’re quite a pair.  After a freaked out customer (Emily Kitchens) calls security, Nedda helps Tommy escape the ladies room disguised as a nun. 

David Gow

The romance blossoms as the two lovebirds join forces against the world—shoplifting, beating checks and stealing ketchup bottles from restaurants. Tommy, Arnold, and Ben move into Nedda’s apartment. Here’s when nostalgia really hits. Oh, the blissful times when a struggling music student could afford a New York City apartment large enough to house an oversized sheep dog, plus a hallway with a couch for Ben to sleep on. Uber, security cameras, and delivery apps have since made it impossible to stiff a cheating cabbie or not pay for your dinner.

But the time is ticking for Tommy.  You can only get away with things for so long—plus mistakes can be costly. And as the clouds begin to thicken over his head, the bomb parts in his bag may become an appealing option. Will he ultimately follow the steps of the dangerous manual?  It is here when McNally’s decades old play suddenly leaps from the amusing past into an unsettling present. It’s not the first time a rebellious outcast would blow himself up to make his statement. It’s also not the last. So where has Tommy Flowers gone? Will he be part of the statistics that now rock the world with depressing regularity, or will he somehow manage to cheat his fate once again? 

Photos by Daniel Davila
Top photo:Emma Geer and David Gow

Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone?
By Terrence McNally
Directed by Laura Braza
The Workshop Theater
312 W 36th Street, Fourth Floor