note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Sometimes a show and a cast and a locale all converge to make extraordinary theater magic. After seeing Turtle Lane’s joyous production of William Finn and James Lapine’s FALSETTOS, I’m convinced the musical plays best in a small, intimate house. And this cast makes it work like gangbusters. Director Russell Greene’s hip, cheeky production of love and life in the perilous ‘80s is a gift. Finn’s touching story of sexual angst and coming of age is as hilarious as it is tragic: The ‘80s, you will recall, brought AIDS along with disco and Reagan. FALSETTOS is only up for one more week (thru Oct. 12th) so run, as fast as you can, to see it. Miss it at your peril.
Bless Turtle Lane for donating part of their box office profits to the AIDS ACTION Committee. Lest you think AIDS is not the epidemic it once was in the USA, we’re just learning that the Centers for Disease Control are sounding the alarm again. They estimate the number of new HIV cases is 40% higher than previously known, with New York City reporting a 33% rise among gay men under the age of thirty. And it’s the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25-34. Lord help us, it’s here again.
Finn’s story takes place back then, when we didn’t know what we know now. James A. Fitzpatrick III gives his best performance yet as the loving father of a precocious ten-year old (Jimmy Larkin) who is less than happy to hear his father is gay. Marvin still wants to keep his “tight-knit family” but that doesn’t sit well with his wife, either. Kate deLima gives a luminous performance as the longsuffering Jewish wife, out of her depth with Marvin’s sudden change of heart. (deLima gets to bring down the house with the sensational “I’m Breaking Down” and Fitzpatrick gets to break our hearts with his gorgeous “Father to Son.”)
Everyone back then, it seemed, was seeing a psychiatrist so everyone in the story does too. Marvin, his wife and the kid all see the same shrink. That’s pretty funny all by itself. And Robert Mattson is unstoppable as the neurotic neurologist who just craves a family of his own. The “mini-opera” sessions in his office still have me giggling, not to mention his vaudeville numbers.
Ronald Pompeo, Jr. plays the object of Marvin’s affections, brilliantly winning our affection too, as he changes from playboy to mensch. Jaime Steinbach and Jessica Schulman McGettrick are first rate as the “lesbians next door” who lend sympathy and support. (Music director)Wayne Ward and Steve Jounakos seem like a whole orchestra in the pit: The show is so musically intense, with every emotion sung, and sung so beautifully, you don’t notice the sparseness of dialogue or instruments. John MacKenzie’s ‘less is more’ sets are perfection, as are Richard Itczak’s smart costumes. Don’t miss this one!