Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Little Night Music"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Dead End"

by Sidney Kingsley
Directed by Nicholas Martin
Music Composed by Mark Bennett

Scenery Design by James Noone
Costume Design by Michael Krass
Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner
Sound Design by Kurt B. Kellenberger
Fight Director Rick Sordelet
Production Stage Manager Kelly Kirkpatrick
Assistant Stage Manager Printha K. McCallum

Gimpty..............................Jon Patrick Walker
T.B. ........................................Lucas Papaelis
Tommy.........................................Charlie Day
Dippy............................................Keith Elijah
Angel.........................................Rollin Carlson
Spit....................................Dennis Staroselsky
Doorman.........................George Pendleton III
Wealthy Lady...........................Claire Gregoire
Wealthy Gentleman..................William Young
"Baby-face" Martin................Dominic Fumusa
Hunk.....................................Diego Arciniegas
Philip Griswald.............Matthew Bretschneider
Governess.............................Bobbie Steinbach
Milty..............................................Jack Ferver
Drina..........................................Kathryn Hahn
Mr. Griswald..................................Will Lyman
Mr. Jones/Medical Examiner........Bob Colonna
Kay......................................Jennifer Van Dyck
Jack Hilton/G-Man #2....................Bill Mootos
Lady with Dog...............................Alice Duffy
Boy #1..............................Robert St. Laurence
Boy #2..........................................Adam Howe
Boy #3..................................Gabriel Goodman
2nd Avenue Boy # 1...................Eric Anderson
2nd Avenue Boy # 2......................Seth Decker
2nd Avenue Boy # 3................Alexander Maso
Mrs. Martin.............................Nancy E. Carroll
Patrolman Mulligan...................Rod McLachlan
Francey................................Amy Van Nostrand
G-Man # 1......................................Gene Farber
G-Man # 3..............................Jason Schuchman
Policeman.....................................Michael Kaye
Intern.......................................Richard Auguste
Ed......................................................Ed Sorrell
Young Girl # 1...............................Abby Huston
Young Girl # 2...........................Rachel Neuman
Tenement Girl..............................Jessica Dickey
Young Man........................................Eric Rubb
Lady with Broom...........Peg Saurman Holzemer
Mr. Tranche.................................Ray McDavitt

The production of Sidney Kingsley's "Dead End" now at The Huntington Theatre Company is a major event --- big looked at from any perspective. James Noone's set shows three or four four-story buildings --- one a luxury apartment's back door, the rest slovenly tenements --- and an orchestra pit full of water plays the East River for a gang of half a dozen street-kids to cannonball into.

There are 40 actors playing 42 named characters, every one a rounded, complete person --- and 26 of those actors are Bostonians, from undergraduates like Rachel Neuman and Eric Anderson to well-known stalwarts of the local scene such as Alice Duffy, William Young, Nancy E. Carroll, Ed Sorrell, Bobbi Steinbach, Jason Schuchman, Bill Mootos, Diego Arciniegas, and Matthew Bretschneider. The mere size of the cast would be impressive. The fact that everyone, no matter how large a role, fits seamlessly into this complicated, three-act story, is more impressive yet.

Kingsley's play opened in 1935, and spawned the story-lines that countless borrowers turned to clichés for the next twenty years of Hollywood and Broadway likealooks. When three "2nd Avenue Boys" show up to challenge the locals to a fight next week-end, for instance, it's hard not to notice where "West Side Story" came from. It's "Gimpty" --- the one local who clawed his way out of poverty to become an unemployed architect --- who, like countless crippled artists after him, upholds both the honor of the streets and a higher decency and outrage at the cruelties of poverty. He contrasts with "Baby-face" Martin, who killed eight men to acquire the silk shirts and the wad of bills his own mother spits on as blood-money. And Kay, living as an expensive kept-woman with a yet-undivorced man, cannot trade her new life for the threat of poverty even with the man she loves more. The judge's son presses charges, while piously insisting it's not to get back at the kid who stabbed him but to prevent him from stabbing others --- even though everyone knows Reform School is a school for bigger crimes. Sound familiar? They weren't in 1935, and on the Huntington stage these confrontations are still heartwrenchingly powerful.

But it's the kids who really fill the stage. They are classically over-energetic and under-occupied, jeering and squabbling, sloshing the first six rows with their energetic dives, screaming derision at the rich swells and rich kid who scuttle through their alley with haughty, well-dressed disdain for the unwashed. Obviously none of them asked to be born poor, and the depths of the Depression offer no alternatives --- except the fighting dirty and crime that "Baby-face" recommends. In this tense crucible even the pure in heart compromise, and the consequences of a mis-step --- a slashed cheek, a jail-sentence, or a hail of bullets --- are sudden, sharp, and inescapable. Beneath the brawling and the bravado, the moral dilemma involved here is a game with serious consequences.

I haven't mentioned any actors here because, in a forty-member ensemble work like this, there are no stand-out stars. Important scenes and speeches and moments indeed fall to some more than others, but Director Nicholas Martin has been at pains to see to it that William Young or Alice Duffy with never upstage their fellows with the force of their few lines. Each actor gets a moment, but as in the best of plays it's their acting together, with lines or without, that make this play continually engrossing.

Nicholas Martin is the new artistic director of the Huntington Theatre Company.
"Dead End" is a big, promising beginning to what looks like a great new season.
And he threw one hell of a good party after the show!

Love,
===Anon.


"Dead End" (till 8 October)
HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
264 Huntongton Avenue, BOSTON
1(617)266-0800


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