Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
Satchmo, a pivotal character in David Rabe's Corners, was lounging outside the Nikos Stage when I arrived for the opening day matinee. Had I realized his significance to the proceedings and just good an actor he is I would have asked him for a pawgraph. Unlike the dog in The Rivals (see link) who was strictly a walk-on, this canine charmer surely deserves a cast listing in the program. (To the Williamstown Theatre's credit they have posted his picture and name in the lobby).
The only female character in the play, a sex bomb named Theresa (Kathryn Hahn) also plays a major role in terms of her effect on the events of a single day during which the play unfolds even though she appears as briefly as Satchmo.
Corners, you see, is very much a guy play with five tough-talking New Yorkers meeting during the course of a single day at various corners of the less traveled streets of New York's Little Italy section in lower Manhattan. For starters there are Ronnie (Joe Pacheco) and Ray (Robert Pastorelli) two men whose loyalties are severely tested when Ray's free-wheeling sex life brings him to the attention of his latest girl friend's brother Joey (Christopher Meloni) who's "connected" to a Godfather type uncle (Victor Argo). Ronnie and Ray and Joey are three men in chains -- the visible chains around their necks and the invisible chains of behavior patterns that bring Ronnie and Ray up against the street corner justice system of Joey's "connections" in which Ray's attitude about the "wrong" done to Theresa is more important than the deed itself.
While Corners lacks the power of other Rabe plays I've seen -- (including my first, the unforgettable 1972 Tony-award winning Sticks and Bones and most recently, A Question of Mercy) -- it tackles such never outdated issues as loyalty, honor and miscommunication. The dialogue is as usual gritty and filled with bits and pieces that sum up not only the situation but what makes these characters tick. It is written for actors who know how to let their lines dovetail with smooth precision. Happily, Ellis has directed the actors to finesse this quality in the current script. The timing and interaction between these men is a pleasure to watch -- as when Joey confronts Ray with what he's learned about him and Theresa and Ray, pausing long enough but not too long, exclaims "I didn't know it was your sister." Despite the fact that Ray seemed to forget his Little Italy accent when talking to his dog, Robert Pastorelli displays particularly fine emotional range throughout. Christopher Meloni seems more at home as the not-too-bright, quick-on-the-trigger wimp than Billy Starbuck the agent of change in The Rainmaker (see link at end). Victor Argo who has some of the best lines in the play, (such as his deadpan, dead-on summary of the brouhaha that's at the heart of the action-- "so we have a menage à trois only the third party is a dog"), will undoubtedly memorize the few he stumbled over by the time anyone reading this sees him.
The production values are simple but simply wonderful . Allen Moyer has turned a platform criss-crossed with large squares so that one of the corners points to the center of the orchestra. To the rear is a brick wall with a sliding metal garage door. Brian Nason's lighting creates a just right mood of darkness and fight director David S. Leong has masterfully orchestrated the scene when verbal threats become grim reality.
With its sharply realistic picture of street corners where a man 's leather jacket is as likely to hold a cell phone as a gun and the deranged logic of its plot, you might tag Corners as turn-of-the-twentieth-century Beckett-ian absurdist comedy. Clocking in as it does at 75 intermissionless minutes, this new work by the versatile and accomplished Rabe certainly makes for a brisk and never sluggish production. On the other hand, since it is a world premiere, it would not be out of order to say this should be viewed as a work in progress. Bits and pieces, notably Ronnie's having "second sight are currently more gratuitous than meaningful. Even with these shortcomings, it's one of the more provocative, darkly amusing comedies of this summer season.
And, of course, there's that new tragedian, Satchmo!
LINKS TO OTHER PLAYS MENTIONED
The Rainmaker an earlier-in-the Williamstown season star vehicle for Christopher Meloni