The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review

Everybody in my hometown was shocked when I chose this place, but they shouldn't have been. Martha Graham danced here. I used to envision myself—secretly, of course—as the heir apparent to Martha Graham. Here was a woman making exotic shapes—her shapes made more powerful statements than all the tainted rhetoric in the air..—Robin Smith
Michael Carbonaro and Jonathan Hogan
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Jonathan Marc Sherman's 1993 "he-said, he said" drama brings us up-close and personal to a campus scandal in which a popular tenured professor has been accused of sexually harrassing one of his male students. The subject matter, also explored in John Patrick Shanley's deeper Doubt and David Mamet's Oleana, was more startling when it premiered at Playwrights Horizons (with the young Calista Flockhart and Ethan Hawke). However, the production now at the Beckett Theater is a chance to recapture the flavor of a small New England college in the 1990s.

The action begins, appropriately enough, in a college classroom with Professor Whitey McCoy (Jonathan Hogan) musing over abstruse tenets of philosophy with his undergraduates. He poses questions such as "What is the value of value?" and "Who are we, and what is important to us?" Xavier "Ex" Reynolds (Charlie Hewson), a student who is clearly more concerned about passing his final exam than trying to fathom pre-Socratic philosophy, interrupts with a more concrete question: "Is this going to be on the test?"

So much for philosophy. As for the test, there will be more than one over the course of the evening, most conspicuously the examination of Professor McCoy's moral character, which, in turn, has the college itself being judged for how it responds to a sexual harassment charge against a faculty member.

In his non-linear play Sherman offers us a first act with a pair of scene in which the professor and student re-enact the incident as they individually remember it. Sherman doesn't try to connect the dots for our imagination, but lets the case take on a kind of sophistic argument in our minds: What did really happen at Whitey's apartment late one night during Thanksgiving break? Who seduced who? And was sex actually part of the evening, or not?

Strangely, the sexual scandal gets dramatically downplayed after the early scenes. The author shifts the center of the play to the four undergraduates, who spring to life in dissolute detail. The students may be upset over Whitey's dismissal by college president Quintana Matheson (Ellen Dolan), but they are obviously more preoccupied with their own personal relationships, getting high on drugs or booze—and, oh yeah!—- graduating from college. Only Robin (Natalie Knepp), the school reporter and later valedictorian, occasionally voices her concerns about the professor's fate.

Sophistry is at its best when it focuses on the three male friends, Willy (Maximillian Osinski), Igor (Ian Alda), and Ex (Charlie Hewson). Whether they are strumming guitars, trying to pick-up young women, or break-up with them, their language and antics evoke the real atmosphere of the laid-back college life of the '90s. We see J. Crew jackets (with enough pockets for a six-pack of beer), hear music from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and learn that if one's inspiration runs dry, term papers can be bought. Whitey's return in Act 2 — after the suit has been "settled" with more revelations about himself and his current status— raises the question of whether a play can be too earnest in its closing scene? Perhaps. In a return to the original premise of the play, the case of Jack v. Whitey, via the valedictorian's commencement speech about one's intergrity and "not settling" in life, Sherman seems to be using her as a stand-in for his own point of view.

All things considered this new production from South Ark Stage is not new enough to escape being dated. Still, director James Warwick gets high marks for coherently gathering the loose ends and black holes in the drama and the energetic actors rate an A plus.

Written by Jonathan Marc Sherman
Directed by James Warwick
Cast: Jonathan Hogan (Whitey McCoy), Maximillian Osinski (Willy), Natalie Knepp (Robin Smith), Mahira Kakkar (Debbie), Ian Alda (Igor Konigsberg), Charlie Hewson (Xavier (Ex) Reynolds), Michael Carbonaro (Jack Kahn), Ellen Dolan (Quintana Matheson).
Sets: Charles Corcoran
Costumes: Melissa Schlachtmeyer
Sound: Graham Johnson
Lighting: D.M. Wood
Stage Manager: Christine Fisichella
South Ark Stage at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street212/279-4200
Ticket price: $47.50,
From 4/22/09; opening 5/05/09; closing 6/06/09.
Tuesdays @ 7pm, Wednesdays through Friday @ 8pm, Saturdays @ 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays @ 3pm.
Running time: 2 hours including a 10 minute intermission.
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on May 1st press performance
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Sophistry
  • I disagree with the review of Sophistry
  • The review made me eager to see Sophistry
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

You can also contact us at Curtainup at Facebook or Curtainup at Twitter
Try for great seats to
Jersey Boys
The Little Mermaid
Lion King
Shrek The Musical

South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide


©Copyright 2009, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from