Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Crossing Delancey"

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"Crossing Delancey"

by Susan Sandler
Directed by Jerry Bisantz

Scenic and Lighting Design by John MacKenzie
Background Design & Painting by Michele Boll
Sound Design by David Feldman
Stage Manager Helene Andersson

Izzy.........Angela Rose Blackman
Bubbie................Ronnie Marshak
Tyler...........................Glen Doyle
Hannah.......Kate Flanagan Tonner
Sam........................Rick Sherburn
Delivery Man.......Rocco Sperozza

Susan Sandler's "Crossing Delancey" is very popular with community theatres, even though it yearns to be a movie every step of the way. It takes a gifted cast, a sharp director and a clever designer to make it work live on a stage. But The Hovey Players have all three, and the production at their Abbott Memorial Theater out in Waltham is a perfectly polished gem.

("So what else is new?" you'll say. "Ain't 'Hovey' and 'excellent' synonyms?")

The play really takes place inside the mixed-up mind of a modern maiden who loves her Lower East Side grandmother and visits not only her kitchen but her first-generation life-style every Sunday --- even though she is determined to make modern choices, like her Upper East Side bookstore job. Wouldn't she want to fall in love with the successful novelist who drops in far too often to be interested only in books --- instead of the local pickle-maker her Bubbie and Hannah the matchmaker have picked out?

(Okay, so you think you know how it ends; It's how it Gets to the end is so charming!)

Designer John MacKenzie has filled the Hovey stage with that kitchen, and made the bookstore nothing but a sales-counter --- and then opened the space with his lights. The play after all is Izzy's, and she walks out of the action to explain things, so the set becomes realistic one moment, fluid the next.

(But, just so you know it's Ne'York we're talking here, MacKenzie melts a back wall so Michele Boll can paint a view of tenement-tops just to nail it down.)

The Uptown bookstore scenes all have a suave, modern flavor. Glen Doyle's novelist slithers in, in leather and vicuna, looking like an English major's dream come true. The Downtown scenes are full of outrageous exaggeration. Ronnie Marshak's self-flattering tales of the men she could have had stay just this side of over the top, while she and Kate Flanagan Tonner's nosh-addicted matchmaker shriek like Old World parrots at one another. And, in between --- a nervous but determined ex-poet --- is Rick Sherburn's pickle-maker.

In between is also Izzy --- already a little old to be single in grandma's eyes, unwilling to settle for a life without choices. Angela Rose Blackman makes her vibrantly alive in her trembling hopes and expectations, her loving laughing fondness for her tradition-bound Bubbie, her grudging appreciation of real versus dream.

(She's proud to be Fran Weinberg's student. Ya think Weinberg ain't proud too?)

The invisible fingerprints of Director Jerry Bisantz are all over this production. When the pickle-maker, crammed into tight black vinyl jeans to look modern, turns to reveal a white racing-stripe down one leg, that is a Jerry Bisantz moment. But the balance of shtick with serious, the hovering indeterminate shimmer to everything, and the ultimately good-hearted love in these characters is all his as well.

(And Rocco Sperozza gets his line right! Ya don't believe me? Go hear it fer ye'self!)


"Crossing Delancy" (till 3 February)
Abbot Memorial Theatre, 9 Spring Street, WALTHAM

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide