note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Sheila Barth
Twists, turns, and surprises abound in Joe Byers’ intriguing new play, “The Fakus- A Noir,” currently appearing with Centastage at Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) Plaza Theatre.
Besides award winning-actress Bobbie Steinbach’s command performance, co-stars Craig Mathers as con man Harry Galvin and Paul Melendy as vulnerable yet slick Leland Novak are equally compelling in this twisted tale of betrayal and trust. Director Joe Antoun leaves no detail unattended as one scene after another evokes unexpected turns. Sound designer Rick Brenner intensifies the suspense with moody musical interludes between scenic changes and dismal downpours at the September Atlantic City seaside.
For me, personally, it’s a treat watching Melendy, former versatile student-actor at Salem State, and witnessing his professional growth. An Equity actor, Melendy shines in this demanding role, with its rapidly-changing demeanor. Melendy may look familiar to Boston and regional theatergoers, too. He has performed at Wheelock, New Repertory, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Publick Theatre, and others in Massachusetts and Maine.
Byers‘ two-act play is a fascinating foray into the world of con men preying on a church-going, praying public (or anywhere else they can scam and score a hit), and unwittingly on each other.
Ronald DeMarco’s sliding set, with its graffiti-laden street, hotel room, and tea restaurant on the Boardwalk in 1957, along with John Cuff’s subtle lighting, finely sets the mood here.
After church, two strangers meet on a nearby bench and engage in friendly conversation. Harry Galvin, who says he’s a married businessman from Pittsburgh involved in aluminum, small talks with tall, handsome, well-dressed Leland Novak, who’s married to a Jewish woman. He says he’s the accountant-bookkeeper for his well-to-do father-in-law’s line of upscale men’s clothing,
When Harry finds an expensive set of rosary beads on the street, the men become caught up with the rosary beads’ owner, Mrs. Joseph Patrick Paul Costello (Steinbach), an eccentric, Irish-Catholic widow from Poughkeepsie, who’s involved in a philanthropic mission to deliver $100,000 to an African priest, to build a school in his country for their “pagan babies”.
The pious, vision-seeing woman, is a self-professed mystic, who seems authentic. She reads the men’s tea leaves, predicting their futures, and sees visions of the Blessed Mother. The rosary beads were her dead daughter’s, so she treasures them. She has been widowed for 50 years. She has angina, a bad ankle, and can’t get to the pier in New York to deliver $100,000 cash to the priest, so she asks these two strangers to do it for her- providing they each put up $10,000 collateral. After they deliver the money, she’ll return their money and give them $1,000 each for their trouble.
Steinbach holds theatergoers spellbound as she concocts plans to trust each other. She orders the men around, and plants seeds of doubt to Leland about Harry. Meanwhile, the men are forming their own bond. Byers’ plot and this trio’s provocative performances keep theatergoers on the edge of their seats.
BOX INFO: Two-act play, written by Joe Byers, appearing through Oct. 6: Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m.; Oct.5,6, at 8 p.m. at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Tickets: $21.50-$29.50; student, senior discount tickets, $21.50; student rush tickets at the door, if available. call 617-933-8600 or 617-426-5000.