Imagine Titanic minus swinging chandeliers, dripping-wet extras and Leonardo DiCaprio. Playwright Frank Avellino has done just that in a brilliant retelling of the fateful voyage concentrating totally on the human aspects of grief and loss - and hope, despite the most horrendous circumstances.
Avellino's beautifully crafted play depicts human nature laid bare. In the first act we meet the players, who in the second act reveal themselves to be quite different from how they first appeared. The second act takes place in a lifeboat full of survivors who reveal the most intimate details of their lives, as well as their hopes and fears for what their lives will be like after their rescue. Avellino has created an extraordinarily diverse cast of characters, each of whom tug at the heart in surprising ways.
Avellino was as skilled a director as he is a playwright. Under his direction, his talented cast all turned in compelling performances that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Robert and Katherine Healey (Jordan Zaretsky and Kristen Kendall) were delightful Irish newlyweds hoping for a better life in America. Robert's quiet dignity and Katherine's determination to forebear no matter what awaited her were compelling and touching in characters so young, who were being deprived of the bright future they deserved. Caise Rode was heartbreaking as the Healeys' friend, Eileen O'Grady, who looked forward to escaping the hardships of her life in Ireland.
Cary Grant-lookalike Lawrence Brustofski captured all the facets of the arrogant, charming, but ultimately cowardly and cruel aristocrat, Lord Hubert Barrenford. Teresa Simpson was magnificent as Barrenford's wife, Victoria, whose snobbish exterior was a facade hiding a lonely, passionate, and goodhearted woman. Frank Malvasi brought charm and likability to Barrenford's business associate, Dodsworth B. Caine.
Julie Zimmerman brought exuberance, humor, and warmth to the character of Edith Hosey, a kindly woman who had never gotten over the traumas of her early life. Iris Weinhouse was a charming Martha Hubbard, the widowed, childless governess who has poured all of her loving nature into the care of the infant who ultimately dies in her arms in the lifeboat.
Jeff Gordon offered a sensitive portrait of Fifth Officer Hetchinson, who steered the lifeboat to safety. Joe Primavera was a compelling, thoughtful Steward Smith, and Andy Uhlenhopp was excellent in dual roles as Reverend Chadwicke and the Carpathia officer.
James Pepe, Danny Craig, and Ian Federgreen gave fine performances in smaller roles.
Bunny Mateosian's exquisite costumes looked wonderful on
everyone. Ms. Simpson's velvet cloak was particularly lovely.
Louis Lopardi's light design was beautifully evocative,
while flattering to the actors and costumes. The uncredited set
was simple but worked very well.
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Copyright 1999 Julie Halpern