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‘Til Death Do Us Part: ‘This Day Forward’ at Vineyard Theatre

November 21st, 2016 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

"This Day Forward" (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“This Day Forward” (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Nicky Silver (Pterodactyls, The Lyons), comic dramatist of family angst, is at it again with Vineyard Theatre’s This Day Forward, a schizophrenic dramedy that has an idea about the vagaries of love—romantic, marital, familial, straight and gay—and doesn’t know what to do with it. Its first act, set in a fancy hotel room and dealing with a newlyweds’ catastrophe, could almost be a fourth act in Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite; Act Two, however, taking place nearly half a century later, could be any play set in an apartment and dealing with an all-too-common family crisis.

Act One, introduced in a prologue by well-to-do, Jewish, New Yorker Martin Resnick (Michael Crane), takes place in 1958 in a room at New York’s St. Regis Hotel, to which he and his bride, Irene (Holley Fain), have repaired. Martin’s still in his tux, Irene in her white bridal gown (Kaye Voyce did the fine costumes), and he’s eager to make whoopee with what he assumes is his virginal spouse. The mildly ditzy Irene isn’t interested, though; instead, she confesses to the startled groom that she not only doesn’t love him but that the big lug she does love, an Albanian, Greek Orthodox grease jockey named Emil (Joe Tippett), is on his way so the couple can run off to Acapulco, the newlyweds’ honeymoon destination.

This absurd situation leads to farcically strained situations as Martin, who insists on his love and believes he can make Irene love him back, fights desperately to save his marriage in the face of Irene’s loutish but friendly lover, who arrives decked out in his sweaty garage gear. Things grow more bizarre with the involvement of Melka (June Gable), an old, heavily accented, Polish chambermaid, and her pilfering son, the uniformed room-service waiter, Donald (Andrew Burnap), who advise Irene on which man to choose. The already uneven tone shifts radically from shaky farce to dark despair.

Silver’s theme of love’s idiosyncrasies, which fly in the face of reason, continues in Act Two, set in 2004, and located in the upscale loft of successful stage director Noah Resnick, Martin and Irene’s gay son. The same actors from act one appear but—except for a fantasy sequence involving the young Irene and Emil—in different roles; Michael Crane thus plays Martin’s son.

We learn that, during the intervening years Irene and the recently deceased Martin remained entwined in a love/hate marriage/war. We’re now in a situation where Noah and his actor boyfriend Leo (Burnap) quarrel over Noah’s plans to move to LA to direct TV shows. Silver then shifts to an unnecessary flashback scene showing Noah’s first date with Leo.

Francesca Faridany and Michael Crane in "This Day Forward." (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Francesca Faridany and Michael Crane in “This Day Forward.” (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Back in the future of 2004, the plot is complicated by a dispute between Noah and his sister, Sheila (Francesca Faridany), over who should assume responsibility for the dementia-afflicted Irene. Sheila’s been taking care of her but Irene’s behavior has gotten out of hand.

The disheveled Irene herself (now played by June Gable, much shorter than the actress sharing the role), who’s been picked up by the police after running off in her pajamas to JFK, enters, garnering laughs by her profanity and eccentric remarks. Finally, this discombobulated work ends with a sentimental tableau that explains what happened that fateful night so long ago.

Veteran June Gable’s Melka is too caricaturish but her Irene, which has nothing in common with how her younger self is portrayed, offers fine comic pathos; she gets a big laugh when she tells Noah she made him gay to get back at his father. Crane and Fain give their all in the first act, but neither is right for their cartoonish Jewish couple (which may draw your attention to the second act’s lines about casting); Crane, though, whose Noah could very well be Martin, is much truer as the former. Faridany’s Sheila is too continually overwrought, while Burnap and, especially, Tippett, are excellent.

The play (Act One, at any rate) reads funnier than it plays under Mark Brokaw’s direction, which inspires only scattered and mild laughter. There is, though, a memorable moment of physical humor when the angry Martin leaps off the bed to be stopped in midair by Donald’s outstretched hand. The best thing in the show, in fact, are its visuals, particularly Allen Moyer’s substantial sets, carefully lit by David Lander. But in this case, the scenery doesn’t equal substance.

This Day Forward
Vineyard Theatre
108 E. 15th St., NYC
Through December 18

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

Nicky Silver’s “Pterodactyls” Receives NYC Revival

July 14th, 2014 Comments off
The cast of "Pterodactyls" (photo: Noemi Charlotte Thieves via The Broadway Blog).

The cast of “Pterodactyls” (photo: Noemi Charlotte Thieves via The Broadway Blog).

Twenty years before receiving his first Broadway production, Nicky Silver scorched onto the New York scene with Pterodactyls, a blazingly prophetic play that seems more urgent by the day. This viciously hilarious yet humane story about the rotting core of the American family suggests that our extinction is beginning not with an asteroid or an ice age, but rather with a severed connection to the ones closest to us.

When a young man returns home with a diagnosis of AIDS, we expect mother, father, and sister to rush to his side. However, the entire Duncan family is too absorbed in its own individual miseries (Hypochondria! Marriage! Nostalgia! Hors d’oeuvres!) to care much about a close-to-home case of a pandemic illness. Unable to communicate about a single thing, the Duncans start to disintegrate, and the audience begins to see that their son’s diagnosis is actually the least of their worries.

This summer, Pterodactyls is returning to the New York stage for a long overdue revival. Directed by Stephen Kaliski and starring Lori Kee, Maggie Low, Jeremiah Maestas, Dennis Gagomiros and Roger Manix, this hard-hitting production brings vibrant new life to an early masterpiece of one of America’s most uncompromising voices. Transcending the categorizations of “AIDS play” or “LGBT-themed drama,” Pterodactyls is a desperate journey to the real source of our problems, the loss of the American family.

Pterodactyls features set design by Peri Grabin Leong, lighting design Jessica Greenberg, costume design by Marisa Kaugars and sound design by Adam Salberg.

Pterodactyls
at Teatro Circulo
64 East 4th Street
Performances July 17 – August 3, 2014
Monday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased online at: http://www.ptero-play.com/tickets.html
Ticket Info: $15 students (with valid ID) and seniors; $18 general admission

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Leap of Faith” & “The Lyons”

May 2nd, 2012 Comments off

Every first Wednesday of the month, get caught up with what’s on stage with our review round-up. And that vaguely hollow, clinking sound you hear at the end of each segment? That’s me tossing in my two cents. This month, we’ve got two shows that didn’t receive much Tony-nomination love but deserve a serious look…

The Cast of "The Lyons". Photo by Carol Rosegg.

THE LYONS

Tony-nominee Linda Lavin returns to Broadway as one mother of a mother in Nicky Silver’s hilariously acidic family comedy.

“…directed with a pulsing comic rhythm by Mark Brokaw, [the play] draws laughs with the same reliability as, say, The Odd Couple. But with The Lyons, there’s often a gasp within the chuckle.” New York Times

“When you hear them delivered by pros like Dick Latessa and Linda Lavin, it’s comedy nirvana.” New York Post

“Nicky Silver’s caustically funny and emotionally satisfying family comedy is driven by a gem of a performance from Linda Lavin.” Hollywood Reporter

“…delightfully black comedy.” Entertainment Weekly

Mizer’s Two Cents: A victim of an unusually strong season for new plays, The Lyons would be tallying multiple nominations in any other year. See it, not just for Lavin’s justifiably acclaimed comedic master class (she gets laughs from single looks because her character work is so fully realized you can hear the joke she’s thinking in her head), but because the script is a fast-paced, zinger-laced ride that manages to find a bravely humane landing place without going soft. Theatre stalwart Dick Latessa provides delightfully caustic support as a dying patriarch with the mouth of a shock comedian. And Michael Esper, coiled up emotionally and physically, rises to Lavin’s level, slowly and rightfully taking center stage as the real lead of the play. One second act detour has been divisive for audiences (I found it a necessary and illuminating widening of the world) but there’s no question that when The Lyons hits its stride, it roars.

Read more…