Monday, August 2, 2010

Two Readings = Two Plays in Need of Producers

Last week was a busy one. Lucky me, I had friends involved in two readings at the beginning and end of the week. In addition, I had tickets to A Little Night Music (2nd set of leading ladies) in between, so I had a bit of scurrying about to do. Every scurry was well worth it.

Tto open the week, on Monday evening the Abingdon Theatre put on a reading of a play I’d heard read an absurdly long time ago. Some years back Bill McCarty surprised his friends by surfacing with a two act play, complete, without anyone knowing he’d been writing one. Those of you who know writers know how odd that is!

McCarty’s HELLGIG clearly draws on his own experience in the glamorous world of stand-up comedy, the thrill of the road, oh the sights you’ll see. In said play is a terrific role for Bill (that’s fair) that fits like a glove, but also one for his remarkable wife, Patricia Randell. Monday night was a very unusual joy, to see these two fine and funny actors working together, and to hear the play read extremely well in its entirety, crisply directed by Daniela Varon. The play takes place in a Florida condo I never want to see or smell, a dump masquerading as housing for three stand-up comics with a week-long gig at a dive. Only two of these comics have any experience – Georgie Rancor, of which he has much (Mr. McCarty), and Bobbie Sheffield (Ms. Randell). These two have too much experience; these two know each other and neither is happy about it. The third is their opener, a contest winner named Fred, brilliantly and heartbreakingly played by David Gelles-Hurwitz.

Not only does this play have a story, every character in this play has a story, every character has a journey, and while some learn a thing or two, others just refuse. Some things never change. Each character is written sharply, and was played on the edge by Alfredo Narciso (as Lucky, the skeavy owner of the club), Lori Gardner (hilarious both as Panama, an exotic heckler, and a TV reporter with more wit than one expects), and Michael Cullen (as a hood in a nervously hilarious then horrifying scene).

One can only hope someone heard the standing ovation this cast received at the Abingdon for offering its audience this funny, sad, forlorn, frank play. HELLGIG deserves a full production, and New York deserves and needs it. Is any body listening?? HELLGIG’s time has come.


To close the week, I trekked way west to EST where Meir Ribalow directed a first-time-ever-heard reading of Hilary Bettis’ play, Mexico. Mexico is as unpleasant as reality TV, and funnier. Very darkly funny. It, too, offered fabulous characterizations. Since its leading female role was read by Patricia Randell, one could wonder if it was just her -- but listening to the script, it’s not just Ms. Randell. She is that good, but it’s also the writing.

Hilary Bettis’ characters are frighteningly real; they, like the play that frames them, build in a realistic, believable manner. These characters’ journey not necessarily where we’d like to see them go -- rather, their destinations are inevitable as those of flawed heroes in Greek tragedy. Scene by scene, Ms. Bettis draws us into a real world we don’t want to acknowledge. Surely no one can live like this, think like this, behave like this. Alas, even when the father, disburbinglly well played by Randell Haynes, says “We’re not that kind of people,” the audience knows that in fact they are. Mexico is not fun. It is, however, searingly good, and was extremely well done by all players (including Ean Sheehy and Kira Sternbach).

So there you are – two plays, two fine readings thereof, two stories well told -- someone should put these into full production.

~ Molly Matera signing off, calling all producers.

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