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A CurtainUp Review

By Megan Finnegan

I ain't got no one else to talk to. Ain't that funny? At my age. Heh. But you're family, which means you're required to listen, huh? Plus, I know where you live. Frank, he made me promise to be a better person. And I don't mind sayin': This nice-guy shit ain't easy.—Don
Daniel Damiano, Gerry Goodstein
(Photo: Daniel Damiano)
In Ken Jaworowski's new play Interchange, we follow the separate but interconnected stories of five characters through tragedy and some triumph. Taking many cues from Crash, the 2006 Academy Award winning film for Best Picture, the play offers some surprises and some obvious revelations as we discover how each character's choices affect the others.

The first story introduces us to the hard exterior of Don (Gerry Goodstein) and his son Frank, who's terminally ill with leukemia and is leaving his own seven-year-old son in his grandfather's care. Other stories focus on Letty (Cecily Benjamin), a businesswoman,forced to make a decision to save her job or her health/. . . Simon (Sean Singer), a young addict unsure of where to direct his rage and grief. . . Victor (David M. Pincus), an ex-con inside trader trying to put his life together. . .a pair of painfully timid but mutually adoring professors fumbling their way to a relationship (Jeff Paul as Professor Unsworth and Liz Amberly as Professor Belleville). Support players include a heartless boss, a heartless porn producer, a heartless ex-wife and a snarky-because-she-cares-so-much court-appointed counselor.

Jeff Paul puts in an excellent performance as the shy professor. The audience feel his earnestness and discomfort as he tries to engage his students and his love interest. The rest of the cast is proficient, but we often miss the small moments of decision making that can make live theater so fascinating — for example, when Letty goes against her better judgment and puts her own interests above everything else director Thomas Cote doesn't let us see that moment. Since it's glossed over, sympathy for Letty is quickly lost. This problem may be that the playwright didn't trust the actors or the director to interpret his script. His painstakingly detailed stage directions include emotional cues inhibiting more organic interpretation. Despite the subsequent dull spots, Jaworowski's dialogue rings true and is often funny and touching at the same time.

The stakes do not seem to be equal for every character, and some escalate their behaviors without much justification. While we become invested in the key characters, the supporting ones are simply window dressing. Furthermore, the fact that not all the characters connect weakens the premise of a play based on strangers' lives colliding. Cote misses countless opportunities for unscripted character interactions by making each transition happen in a blackout with a musical interlude. Though the music is at times relevant (Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" plays before the first scene at the rehab office), some of it is forced. The use of blackouts means that we only see a strictly realistic version of these characters so that we again miss the moments that can only happen in live theater. I would have liked to see the way that Letty or Don picks up a table and moves it backstage which would not only reveal more about their characters but be much more entertaining than a blackout scene change.

The small, intimate WorkShop Theater is the perfect venue for a play about crucial decision-making moments. The set, designed by Craig Napoliello — a bare stage adorned with simple tables, chairs and props to indicate different settings and the lighting are functionally consistent.

The imperfections not withstanding, Interchange has many lovely moments of connection and discovery. and Jaworowski clearly has the ability to craft real people that we care about. The reasonably priced tickets make it worth your while to get acquainted with his work.

Interchange By Ken Jaworowski Directed by Thomas Cote Cast: Liz Amberly (Professor Belleville), Cecily Benjamin (Letty), Daniel Damiano (Frank), Gerry Goodstein (Don), Riley Jones-Cohen (Janson), Wende O'Reilly (Marie), Jeff Paul (Professor Unsworth), David M. Pincus (Victor), Sean Singer (Simon), Shaun Bennet Wilson (Job Rep, Woman/Marcie) Scenic Design: Craig Napoliello Sound Design: David Schulder Lighting Design: Yuriy Nayer Costume Design: Catherine Siracusa Stage Manager: John Nehlich Fight Director: Giovanni Villari Coordinating Producer: Sean Bennet Wilson Assisting Coordinating Producer: Laura E. Johnson Running Time: 90 minutes no intermission WorkShop Theater Company Mainstage Theater Tickets: $18.00 Wednesday 8pm, Thursday 8pm, Friday 8pm, Saturday 8pm Opened 10/07/2010 Closes 10/30/2010 Review by Megan Finnegan based on performance 10/11/2010
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