note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Beverly Creasey
In baseball they have relief players who practice all season in case they’re needed. In theater, especially small theaters with small budgets, they don’t. So when Rodney Raftery fell ill after the first week of GAGARIN WAY, the Sugan was left with no understudy. Artistic director Carmel O’Reilly put out the call and in three hours got Eric Hamel ready for the role of the security guard who unwittingly gets mixed up in a kidnapping. The criminals in GAGARIN WAY fancy themselves revolutionaries, striking a blow for the persecuted Scottish underclass.
I should point out that the same thing happened when I went to the Lyric Stage two nights ago. They also went up with an actor, script in hand. (I hope I’m not a jinx.) In both cases, though, the actors were able not only to pull it off, but to do so with considerable aplomb.
I now have a favorite new playwright and a favorite new relief pitcher: Gregory Burke writes with the wicked cheek of a Joe Orton, the sophisticated dialogue of Tom Stoppard and the hilarious blue language of David Mamet. GAGARIN WAY is (Can you believe?) Burke’s first play!
Eric Hamel triumphed in his first whack at the role of the political science graduate/ temp guard who thinks a computer heist is what’s happening at his warehouse. You hardly noticed the script on stage and Hamel’s role is mighty physical, to boot.
Ciaran Crawford plays the heck out of the psycho philosopher king who engineers the kidnapping of a foreign CEO in the name of “civil disobedience.” He’s tried non-political violence but the “law of diminishing returns” cramped his style so now he’s happy to try idealistic violence. His cohort is a bit of a sad sack who fancies himself an anarchist in the mold of the freedom fighters in the Spanish Civil War. They’re quite a match
Rick Park is plays against type, mixing a sweet naivete with his menace. He’s the idealist who’s not quite sure what their protest is for. Park and Crawford are sensational together, like the earnest embodiment of the “good cop/bad cop” routine. (I’d love to see them play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.) Park and Crawford deliver the playwright’s historical exposition so painlessly, you hardly notice you’re getting the low-down on yet another example of ruthless British rule. Director Brendan Hughes keeps the pace flying and even with a substitute on stage, it came in two minutes before its ETA.
Dafydd Rees is perfection as the mild mannered Welsh consultant they mistakenly assume is a Japanese CEO. If Martin Scorcese had directed The Lavender Hill Mob, it couldn’t be funnier—or more horrifying. Much is made of the subject of “objective reality” by the amateur philosophers onstage---so I’ll take a shot with my own subjective opinion. You won’t find a better play in town or better acting. The actual Gagarin Way is in Scotland but you don’t have to go that far for wee giftie. It’s at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts.