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|A CurtainUp Review
By Macey Levin
Written several decades ago, one of Handy Dandy's thematic threads centers on peace and anti-nuclear protests. In fact, the play was developed as a fund-raiser for the 1960's national peace movement and was originally performed through the country by James Whitmore and Audra Lindley. Not to minimize the seriousness of the issue, there are other contemporary problems that could serve as the core of the work and be more theatrically effective. AIDS, terrorism, abortion rights are of more immediate relevancy. The company has done some minor updating of the script by utilizing cell-phones, so the playwright's original work has already undergone changes.
Gibson, author of The Miracle Worker, Two for the Seesaw and the current Golda's Balcony, has written bright and incisive dialogue for two interesting characters. Henry Pulaski presides over Sister Molly Egan's trial for trespassing at a nuclear weapons manufacturing facility while leading a group of protestors. Meeting as legal and philosophical antagonists, their respect and affinity for each other slowly evolve. They aid one another in confronting and accepting their past lives and sins. The relationship between the 70-year-old nun and the cantankerous, melancholic judge is replete with dramatic and comic possibilities while the bonding of these diverse personalities carries the promise of affecting drama. This potential is not realized.
Two highly respected veteran performers, Helen Gallagher and Nicholas Surovy, are woefully unprepared. Their line problems prevent the work from following its arc and fulfilling the drama of the confrontations. Rather than being involved with the characters we have our fingers crossed hoping the actors can find their place in the script. The foundation for well-rounded characterizations is present, but it and the drama cannot realize fruition in the production's current state.
The responsibility for this lies with director Don Amendolia as well as the performers. In addition to the line problems of his actors, Amendolia's staging is pedestrian and awkward. Though Andrew Donovan has created a set of platforms and steps, most of the action is confined to the apron area, ignoring the possibility for vivid stage pictures. An upstage setup for projections is utilized but once and Marcia Madeira's lighting, which could serve the production effectively, is also minimally used. The weaknesses of the production may abate as it continues its run, but the company should concern itself with a more careful selection of material.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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