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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Last Days of Mickey & Jean
He’s been on the run, he calls it “retired,” for about seven years. She, who has been his devoted, adoring Southie girlfriend since their high school days, is right in step. Right as rain are their beautifully sustained Southie accents.
Up to the point where the Richard Dresser’s very funny play begins, Mickey and Jean have apparently been living in semi-reclusive style in a Paris hotel room. They believe that they are just far enough from home not to fear being either recognized and cornered by revenge-seeking mobsters or apprehended by the law. Mickey has, however, suddenly become aware of a Fiat that has been circling the block with increasing frequency. But that doesn’t stop Jean from wanting to take in the sights like The Louvre, or stopping to chat at an outdoor café with Bobby (Oliver Wadsworth), a rather insistently friendly banker, coincidently also from Boston. When Bobby who makes a play for the charmingly flustered, but also unmistakably flattered Jean, you could say that an acute attack of cabin fever is the reason.
The plot is complicated by Mickey being sick enough for Jean to take him to see Doctor Shockley (as played by Wadsworth in whites). As you might guess by his name, he has been conceived in the classic vaudeville style of Dr. Kronkite.
After learning from the nutty doctor’s hilariously conducted examination that he has a peptic ulcer, Mickey goes on a drinking binge at a local bar where he recklessly and unknowingly picks up Tinsel (you guessed it, Wadsworth), a dominatrix/dancer/bouncer/singer drag-queen. The comedy reaches its peak in a scene that brings Tinsel in full drag to the hotel room to dispense with a little Gallic philosophy before taking off with Mickey’s wallet.
What better time for Mickey to finally pop the big question to Jean. Could it be that Mickey, who has been previously married three times, suddenly remembers that a wife can’t be made to testify against a husband? Could it be that there is something afoot between the shrewder than you would ever suspect Jean and the fast-talking banker?
It won’t be spoiling anything to tell you that the past is destined to catch up with the fugitive lovers, but not before they make a death pact and confess all their past sins to each other amid some outrageous pot boiling twists and turns in the plot. But it’s the drolly comical give and take between Mickey and Jean that keeps the laughs, and there are plenty of them, coming.
Rogers and Sheehan, under John Pietrowski’s serio-comic direction, are particularly adept at portraying their unconventionally daffy, amoral characters. I liked the way Rogers would shift gears suddenly from being insecure and needy to being a cold and calculating killer with a gun. There are also lots of surprises in Sheehan’s performance as we see how much the very complicated and conflicted Jean is willing to take and how much she is willing to give up. Together they are a joy to watch as they deftly bicker and bait, connive and contrive to make the best of their relationship and of a bad situation. No less admirable is Wadsworth whose makes three delightfully over-the-top transitions, giving the Boston banker, the British doctor and the French drag-queen a goofy reality that goes well beyond simple caricature.
If you keep up with the headlines, it may strike you that Mickey and Jean, as conceived by Dresser have a little in common with real-life fugitives from the law and the Mob, 82 year-old James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr. and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg. Recently apprehended after eluding the authorities for 16 years, the couple made news when Catherine refused to testify against her lover. How ironic that Dresser, who was commissioned to write this play for Merrimack Repertory Theater where it had its world premiere last Spring, would nail the topicality of their newsworthy capture before it ever happened.
Designer Ken Mooney’s hotel room setting, with small areas given to suggest a café and a doctor’s waiting room, certainly validates what many can attest to with all seriousness aside about cheap French hotel rooms. Technical credits, particularly the sound of a Fiat turning the corner and of a gun being shot come courtesy of Sound Designer Jeff Knapp, are all first rate.
This highly enjoyable production is collaboration between Playwrights Theatre of Madison, New Jersey, The Bickford Theater, and Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Vermont where it played earlier this fall with the same cast and director. I would hope that many more regional theaters, perhaps even one Off Broadway, will have the pleasure of producing The Last Days of Mickey & Jean.
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