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|A CurtainUp Review
Magic Hands Freddy
While Magic Hands Freddy features a cast of four it is essentially a running, fourth-wall breaking monologue by Rispoli. His Freddy is the character who will remain etched in your mind. The brother he adores, the wife he calls "the nun" and various peripheral characters are integral to the play . But it's story, and the other actors are on stage to give that story a more full-bodied play flavor. This solo-plus format does circumvent the stasis common to so many one person plays. Rebecca Taylor has directed with a sure hand that avoids any awkwardness in the shifts between the central monologue and the interactive scenes. Ed Chemaly, who plays several roles, adds a very special something to the more active segments, especially as a hilarious undertaker who's also Freddy's client and friend.
The play is, as the title tag line indicates, about love and betrayal. At its center is the overwhelming love Freddy has for his younger brother.
Orphaned and raised in foster homes, Freddy, like so many such older brothers becomes his younger brother Cal's chief support system. His massage business pays for Cal's veterinary schooling. When Cal declares -- on the very day he collects his diploma -- that he doesn't want to be veterinarian (declaring "I don't even like animals"), Freddy's practicality prevails. To him work is not a calling that you're supposed to like but what you do. Even though he's disappointed when Cal does abandon his practice to become an art historian, big brother again backs him up with a loan and ends up taking enormous pride in his success.
Though the brothers eventually live in different worlds, the sibling bond remain strong. They travel to Italy together where they meet Freddy's future wife Maria (Antoinette LeVecchia is best in the flashbacks to the days when she was alive and sexy, before she had a child Freddy loves but she rejects).
Unfortunately while the "love" of the subtitle is established with genuine warmth and humor, the "betrayal" is another matter. For one thing, you can see what it's about long before Mr. Shaw spells it out. More disappointingly, the later scenes that shatter Freddy's illusions and turn his life into a suburban Greek tragedy seem out of tune with the laughter-lightened first act. That said, you'll have to look hard to find a more touching and likeable character than Mr. Shaw's magic-handed Everyman. As portrayed by Mr. Rispoli, his magic isn't limited to his hands.
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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