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A CurtainUp Review
Jimmy Carter was a Democrat
by Les Gutman
Rinne Groff's new play treads in the run-up to these events, set in the mind of a labor historian, Dr. Samuel D. Shostakovitz (Steven Rattazzi), who becomes a tour guide of sorts to his own musings. It's a brilliant, quirky, hilarious performance, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Groff wrote the play with Rattazzi in mind. Unfortunately, it's difficult to figure out what else she might have had in mind: the rest of the play seems to bypass every opportunity to be interesting, missing the runway on air safety and labor issues as it is pointlessly diverted by a trio of sexual relationships.
In the Laguardia tower, we meet two air traffic controllers, Emily (Carla Harting), a PATCO partisan, and Bill (David Stewart), a reluctant union follower but an enthusiastic beer drinker. (There are several good scenes depicting life in the control tower, with Rattazzi as Dr. Sammy, sitting on his bed impersonating an array of pilots checking in from their cockpits.) There is also their FAA supervisor, Mike (Tim McGeever), who tows the company line. Emily spends a lot of time hopping in and out of bed with both; she must have some elusive appeal because Shostakovitz is also infatuated with her. Bill also occasionally hops home to his wife Louise (Molly Powell), who ends up leaving him over some combination of fooling around with Emily and agreeing to go on strike.
Emily has a long poetic monologue in which Groff deftly develops a cross-metaphor involving the natural force of gravity and the unnatural phenomenon of flight. It's one of several times that an engaging theme peeks out of her script, only to be quickly banished. The basic structure of her effort, radiating from Shostakovitz's dingy, very lived-in apartment (nicely designed by Laura Hyman) holds forth promise, and Michael Sexton stages it exceptionally well, but there's little else there to redeem it. The four actors (Rattazzi excluded) don't have much to work with, and they probably can't be blamed for not making more of their roles than they do.
Rinne Groff has shown herself capable of much more than is on display here. Let's hope she gets her radar screen back in working order.
LINK TO ANOTHER PLAY BY RINNE GROFF
The Five Hysterical Girls Theorem
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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