Sunday, November 06, 2005

Theatre Buzz

The Lost Boy

Written by Ronald Gabriel Paolillo
Directed by Kimberly Vaughn

November 11 - 20th, 2005 Queens Theatre in the Park

**** Four Stars

For tickets and show times: www.queenstheatre.org

While John Travolta moved from Welcome Back, Kotter to can’t-buy-a- tuna-sandwich-in-Hollywood back to A-list status, his co-star, Ron Paolillo has eradicated all memories of his trademark grating Horshack laugh in smaller roles as an actor, director and writer in small New York and out of state theatres. He’s directed The Lion in Winter, The Taming of the Shrew, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and other credits. He’s appeared in The Tempest, Richard III, and Adolf Eichmann.

Paolillo’s latest project is the meticulously researched and written, The Lost Boy, about the life of author James M. Barrie. While Wicked may be the backstory to the land of Oz, The Lost Boy could be considered the backstory to Barrie’s classic, Peter Pan, minus music. It traces the origins of Peter Pan back to the death of Barrie’s older brother and his anguish and torment about his failure to save him. Barrie was six years old; his older brother was thirteen. His mother never recovered from the loss of her favorite, most treasured son and she insults and degrades Barrie in frustration all his life.

Both mother and son live with the ghost of the dead Barrie. Roberta Maxwell plays Barrie’s mother as the perfection of icy resentment, of a mother who cannot even bear to look at her surviving son. Ms. Maxwell, a veteran stage and film actress, delivers a brittle Scottish accent and a performance of calculated fury with a shading of sadness that makes her role both unlikeable and sympathetic.

Bruce Connelly’s James Barrie is insulted and humilated by his mother and he brings just the right note of grieving son and brother to the stage. His imagination creates Captain Hook, played with enthusiastic glee by Joseph Lee Gramm as Peter Pan, and Wendy and their visit to Neverland appears on the stage behind Barrie.

The actors speak in hard-to-learn Scottish brogues and make them appear simple. Eva Kaminsky plays Maureen O’Rourke, who Barrie tells his tales too and falls in love with. She doubles as Wendy, speaking with a Scottish accent, then a British accent as Wendy and then back again.

Paollilo brings Barrie’s story full circle with the presentation of Peter Pan to a theatre crowd that includes Barrie’s mother and her acceptance, if temporary, of her surviving son. This three-act play, a rarity in the theatre, is a fine piece of writing and the performances by Maxwell, Connelly, Gramm, and Kaminsky are top notch.

#####


Bingo, A Winning New Musical

Book by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid
Music and Lyrics by Michael Heitzman, Ilene Reid and David Holcenberg
Directed by Thomas Caruso

St. Luke's Church, West 46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues
For tickets and show times: www.telecharge.com

***** - Five Stars - Loved it!


Off-Broadway and off-off Broadway productions used to conjure up the image of an old musty theatre with folding chairs that you had wipe off before sitting, a bathroom shared with the performance, and a surly box office attendent who would point with his chin where the door was.

Not any more.

St. Luke’s has been transformed into a bingo hall for Bingo: A Winning New Musical. Theater favorite Liz McCartney (Taboo, Thoroughly Modern Millie) plays Vern, one of a quartet of bingo playing gals who will let nothing stop their bingo game. The writing is tight, the cast is brilliant, and the songs fresh and original, from Girls Night Out to Gentleman Caller to Anyone Can Play Bingo. Beth Malone’s Alison delivers a homage to Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a show-stopping number that could have been pulled and performed from a Broadway show. The audience participates in a couple of bingo games as the stage is creatively and wittily designed as a bingo hall.

As an added note, the Box office and staffing of this theatre is warm and friendly. You even get a slice of cake on the way out.

#####

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Music and Lyrics by David Nehls
Book by Betsy Kelso
Directed by Betsy Kelso

Dodgers Stages, 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
For tickets and show times: www.telecharge.com

***** - Five Stars - Loved it!

A great segue from Bingo is the Great American Trailer Park Musical, another terrific production from Dodgers Stages (Altar Boyz).

Linda Hart is one of a trio of women who narrate the story about the lives of several people living in a trailer park in Florida. Shuler Hensley is first rate as the cheating husband of an agoraphobic wife while Orfeh brings down the house with her belting voice as the stripper he's carrying on with. The plot has a variety of unpredictable twists and turns and we won't give them away.

You can't do no wrong with a musical with songs titles like This Side of the Tracks, Road Kill, Great American TV Show and the crowd favorite, Storms A-Brewin where the cast performs in bad hair and seventies clothings with a disco beat.

Favorites from This Writer's Bookshelf

How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

Southerners by Marshall Frady

Winners and Losers by Gloria Emerson

everything by James Thurber

Faces in the Crowd by Gary Giddins

Sir Vidia’s Shadow; The Happy Hills of Oceania; The Dark Star Safari; Sunrise with Seamonsters by Paul Theroux

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (fiction)

And Other Stories by John O’Hara (fiction)

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford

The Jump Book by Philippe Halsman (photographs)

Veeck - as in Wreck by Bill Veeck

Complete Poems by Carl Sandburg

My Two Wars; Living Poor; The Farm on the River of Emeralds; and The Saddest Pleasure by Mortiz Thomsen

A Puerto Rican in New York by Jesus Colon

Farewell to Sport; Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris (and New York - both fiction) by Paul Gallico

The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch

The Gay Talese Reader by Gay Talese

The Fireside Book of Boxing and The Professional by Bill Heinz

The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter

The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (fiction)

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

everything by Pearl S. Buck (fiction)

The Red Smith Reader

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg (fiction)

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (fiction)

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly by Margaret Bourke-White

More than Meets the Eye by Carl Mydans

Mary Ellen Mark 25 Years (photography)

Calder’s Universe

Low Life by Luc Sante

The Power Broker by Robert Caro

New York Noir (photographs)

On Photography by Susan Sontag

Ansel Adams - Classic Images (photographs)

My American Century by Studs Turkel