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A CurtainUp Review
The Violin

I need to find that place that is for me! And that violin there...that violin there is my shot and by God, I am not gonna just let it slip away... — Bobby.
The Violin
Robert LuPone
The roster of stolen violins is long and there are several on line data bases about such cases though most list thefts of which the trail has gone cold. On the very day I headed to 59E59's Theater A to see Dan McCormick's play about a violin left in a taxicab , a 1734 Antonio Stradivari stolen from famous violinist Roman Totenberg 37 years ago made news. Recovered by his daughters in 2015 the restored treasure returned to the stage at a private concert in New York played by Totenberg's former student Mira Wang, now a virtuoso performer in her own right.

There are numerous other thefts that may have inspired playwright Dan McCormick's 3-hander presented by the Directors Company — thefts by would-be millionaires as clueless as his characters about how get rid of one of these incredibly valuable and carefully monitored cases without getting caught.

When I entered theater and took in Harry Feiner's cluttered set, I was reminded of the equally cluttered junk shop of David Mamet's 1975 play American Buffalo. Not long into McCormick's play, it proved itself to have a lot more in common with Mamet's to-do over a Buffalo Nickel.

The basement shop in Manhattan's East Village where The Violin plays out is run by Gio (Robert LuPone), a respectable, hardworking master needle and thread craftsman. Like Don in American Buffalo he has a competency lacking in the two low-life brothers who hang out in his shop — one of whom is even called Bobby like Mamet's gofer.

While Gio has long been something of an uncle to these men since their parents' violent deaths, the plot does have a credibility problem. It's hard to believe that the brothers can actually drag Gio, a morally straight arrow who's old enough to know better, into their ransom scheme — or in the way that scheme plays out.

Director Joseph Discher has not helped the tailor shop or the tailor to really authenticate the skill that has kept this lower East Side Manhattan basement shop going all these years. The jumble of tailoring jobs Gio is working on is unimpressive. There are also left loose details, like the takeout chicken dinner that Terry and Gino were going to share. It remains a never used awkwardly visible prop throughout.

Despite these major and minor flaws The Violin is bolstered by the beautiful performances of LuPone, Bradbury and Isola. While Gio is essentially the center of the story, McCormick has created three complex characters and built his plot around the relationship of the brothers to each other and to Gio.

While Robert LuPone is probably the ticket selling attraction, the play is not just a fine acting comeback for him but also a star turn for Peter Bradbury and Kevin Isola. Bradbury is both horrifying and heartbreaking as the small-time, hot-tempered hood with a caring heart when it comes to his kid brother Terry. Isola is riveting as the needy, mentally challenged Terry.

The hints McCormick drops like bread crumbs throughout the two hours too obviously telescope the high drama surprise finale. And while that ending sacrifices credibility for melodramatic sentimentality, it does surprise and comes with a big bang.

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The Violin by Dan McCormick
Directed by Joseph Discher
Cast: Robert LuPone (Gio) and Peter Bradbury (Bobby), (Terry)
Sets: Harry Feiner
Costumes: Michael McDonald
Lighting: Matthew E. Adelson
Sound: Hao Bai
Stage Manager: Rose Riccardi
Running Time: 2 hours, including intermission
59E59 Theaters
From 9/07/17; opening 9/19/17; closing 10/14/17
Tuesday - Thursday at 7 PM; Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM; and Sunday at 3 PM & 7 PM
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 9/14/17 press performance.

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