Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
This is the third of Tom Donaghy's plays I've seen. There's no question that he's got a feel for the ordinary people on the lower rung of the middle class ladder. I liked his last play Minutes From the Blue Route better than a lot of other critics did. Both this and his previous play Northeast Local were given handsome and solidly cast productions, by Lincoln Center and the Atlantic Theater Company. Both, while flawed, nevertheless showcased Donaghy's talent for strong and eloquent dialogue that is often funny and heavily tinged with Mamet-like rhythms.
Like its predecessors, From Above is again about ordinary lower middle class people. This time Donaghy's has come up with a potentially intriguing mix of realism and fantasy. The realistic element is, as in his previous plays, driven by current economic fact. In this case a casino referendum promises to bring money, excitement to the shabby lakeside resort where the action unfolds -- and new problems. On a more surrealistic level the play is a cross between the story of Rip Van Winkle and The Return of Martin Guerre. Its Rip/Martin is a mysterious young stranger named Jimmy (Neal Huff) who arrives seemingly out of nowhere to lay claim to the identity of the dead seventy-two-year-old husband of a thirty-something waitress.
The widow Evvy, is sensitively played by Patricia Kalember, (best known for her role in "thirtysomething" on TV), is still grieving for the husband who's been dead for some time. He may have seemed old and fussy in the tidyness that caused him to constantly sweep dustballs from under the couch of their lakeside cottage but there was apparently nothing old or fussy about him as a lover on top of it. Evvy's neighbors, friends and co-workers at the local hotel want her to get on with her life, especially Linny (Meg Gibson) and Roz (Mary Testa) . The women are also involved in promoting the pro-casino vote. To round out the cast there's Peaches (Stephen Mendillo) and unemployed carpenter with a thick down-East accent and Sean (Stephen Stout) a social worker, the first a would-be suitor for Linny and the latter for Evvy.
While no one's likely to believe that Jimmy really is the dead husband despite his eerie replication of everything about that husband except his appearance, it's clear that the vulnerable widow is going to buy into the fantasy. Unfortunately, it also becomes clear before the intermission, that From Above is not going to rise above the plethora of portents and extraneous props that either go nowhere or are over-explained. Some examples:
Interview with set designer Derek McLane
Minutes From the Blue Route