LETTERS TO EDITOR
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Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine
5/29/01, Editor's Note: Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine comes to New York as a co-production of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and MTC. LA Since the play is essentially intact since its LA run -- same director, same production team and John Spencer as the pivotal character, Marty Glimmer -- we are re-posting Laura Hitchcock's comments on the original production It's worth noting that John Spencer has been the one constant and a bravura contributor to this play's journey to New York. That includes the Williamstown showcase production I saw several years ago (which had David Schwimmer playing Jordan and Terry Beaver the other Glimmer brother.) I'll be seeing the New York production later this week and may have some additional comments at that time. -- E.S.
6/01/01 Addendum: The down side of a debut effort that's a big hit, is that it instantly forces anything that follows to live up to its predecessor. This is especially true if two works explore the same territory, as do Side Man and Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine. Even if Glimmer surpassed Side Man, anyone who saw the latter -- especially in its original Off-Broadway incarnation -- won't have the same visceral pleasure that comes with discovering a completely new voice. I was sufficiently knocked out by that discovery viewing of Side Man (Side Man at CSC) to interview the playwright (the interview) and also see some of his works that have appeared Off-Broadway with much less fanfare but which point to his willingness to delve into a variety of styles and ideas (The Loop . . . Stray Cats . . . The Final Investigation of Ceaucescu's Dog). None of these efforts were intended to be major events but seeing them, as well as two versions of Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, confirm my belief that Leight's Side Man success is not going to be his one hit wonder.
A few comments on the LA production as reported on by Laura Hitchcock. The current supporting cast has one major plus in Seana Kofoed who not only glimmers but shines as Delia, and succeeds in making a potentially unsympathetic character likeable enough to have one rooting for her and Jordan's future. This actress, whose work I admired in three previous plays (Memory of Water. . An Experiment With An Air Pump and Toys In the Attic at Berkshire Theatre Festival) never fails to impress. Scott Cohen as Jordan looks and acts quite a bit like David Schwimmer who played the part in the original WTF production. On the other hand, Brian Kerwin is miscast as Daniel Glimmer. Besides not suiting the part physically, he fails to convey the pain in the separation and reunion of the twin brothers whose relationship is the essence of the play (which is why the original title Glimmer Brothers was to my mind more apt). Terry Beaver, the Daniel Glimmer I saw at WTF ( review) brought the needed layer of emotion to the role and I feel this The miscasting has much to do with the MTC version's failure to rally the critical community around the play.
I agree with Laura's remarks about the set's assets but she would find the MTC stage the very opposite of the Taper. Instead of feeling crowded, the wide MTC stage at times seems underfurnished. As for Evan Lurie's score, it would, as Side Man did, make a nice CD. -- Elyse Sommer
Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine in LA by Laura HitchcockJazz isn't just the theme of Tony-winner Warren Leight's new play about musicians and the impact of their art on their lives. It's imbedded in the writing style and reveals character more than anything else in the play. To write about this play in the prosaic analytical terms of motivation and plot does a disservice to Leight's artistic feel for the brothers and their world.
Leight will write in riffs, most noticeably when Danny Glimmer (Nicholas Surovy) first visits his comatose twin Martin (John Spencer). Danny's minimal earthbound words to Martin are the bass. Martin is out on a smile and no shoeshine swinging on a heavenly star, words tumbling over each other until Danny calls him back to the resumption of a dialogue interrupted 35 years before.
Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine takes place in 1990. Jordan (Jonathan Silverman), the trombonist son of the Glimmer twins' former partner Eddie Shine, is taking care of Martin who is terminally ill. At a wedding Jordan meets Delia Glimmer, Danny's daughter (Alexa Fischer). They fall in love and Jordan brings Delia to meet the uncle she never knew she had.
Eventually a reluctant Danny comes to see Martin. The play doesn't take the traditional route of depicting Martin as a man who gave up all for art and found it worth it, and Danny as successful but miserable. Martin is a drug addict, who was only moderately successful. Danny, though never a major musical talent, is the first to admit that without his wife Martha's prodding him onto the executive fast track he'd be dead of drugs.
There's a schematic back story involving Danny's unfaithful wife Martha who drove a wedge between the twins and Danny's lies to Martha which he blamed on his brother. Martha is still faithless and Danny's final riff is a monologue into the answer phone by which Martin silently sits which propels that proud loner to make his final statement.
Leight will not soon get a better production for his play than the one the Taper has given it. Evan Yionoulis, the director, finds the vulnerability in the characters without sentimentality and her staging has a music of its own.
The production is solidly grounded by the fierce performance of John Spencer as Martin. Spencer doesn't miss a thing. He gives old jokes a new life. More vividly than Leight's plot, Spencer's characterization shows us what the play is about. One of Leight's strengths is showing us subtly how Martin's devotion to his music brings him ill health, drug addiction and very little success but leaves him with an energy and fiery flair for living that light up any room he's dying in.
Nicholas Surovy makes Danny a silver ghost in elegant GQ clothes. He and Spencer manage to convey the impression that they look alike. The twins begin to swap the tag lines to their favorite old jokes the way they must have echoed each other on horns in their youth. The playwright portrays them as two sides of the same coin and it works.
Leight is less deft in the characterizations of Jordan and Delia. The beautifully burnished Delia seems like a clichéd affectation and Jordan conventionally resists her efforts to dress him up and take him anywhere. There's interesting material here that is never developed. Why, for instance, does Jordan hate presents? One yearns for more of these tantalizing hints of the real people behind the stereotypes and is tempted to agree with Delia when she tells Jordan he couldn't stand living with her.
Jordan and Delia have a particularly memorable scene, film noir replay of Delia's mother Martha and Jordan's father Eddie in svelte 1950s clothes. Martha tries unsuccessfully to get Eddie to start a new career by running off with her, although he's Danny's best friend and she's Danny's fiancée. He rejects her and the implication is that history may repeat itself. Fischer and Silverman are a pleasure to watch and make the most of what they've been given.
Set Designer Neil Patel's photograph of jazz musicians becomes a fascinating backdrop scrim through which we can see the brownstone where Martin lives. The two couch areas which depict Martin's and Danny's apartments work less successfully. They're not clearly differentiated and the set sometimes seems cluttered and dangerously near to overpowering the actors. Donald Holder provides serviceable lighting and Candice Donnelly's shrewd costumes bespeak a sense of character. Composer Evan Lurie provides the evocative score.
A classical musician once berated George Gershwin for writing tunes like coins that jingle in your pocket. Here Leight uses words for music and pace, evoking the substance and emotion of his story more effectively through style than through action. This is a very accessible play, funny and sad, and as American as the Big Apple.