A Wink and a Smile is aptly titled, as it tells the story of an out-of-work actor and writer, Scott, who is obssessed with being another William Holden. He is very charismatic, but he is also an addicted gambler and an alcoholic. As the play opens, he and a friend, Laura, are discussing both her play and his, and how to get them produced. Scott wants to get "important" people interested in her work; at the same time he belittles his own play, probably out of envy. Laura works full-time (we never find out where) and is sufficiently secure to finance a staged reading and a full showcase production of her play. Scott persuades a literary agent whom he once met at a party, Ralph, to read Laura's script. Ralph likes it but makes no promises. Scott charmingly persuades Laura to move in with him, as a roommate - he has a financial need and is behind in his rent. She goes along, but then she has already fallen in love with him.
There is a bar scene (a cinematic device, quite skillfully done with lighting) in which a barfly, Brenda, picks him up; Scott brings her back to his apartment. Needless to say, this does not sit well with Laura.
(Scott has a pal, Michael, who sympathizes with Scott's problems; this character appears to be a just a device to try and lure Laura away from Scott, even though Scott says he really loves Laura.)
It is obvious early on that Scott is a loser. He even fantasizes about Fred, one of the top agents in the business, casting him if only he could get an audition with him. The major stumbling block with Fred is that he is gay, and Scott is very definitely straight. He once briefly met Fred at a party and inadvertently sent him the wrong signals. This results in the highly improbable scene of Fred coming to Scott's apartment - to get laid, of course. The gay version of the casting-couch scene would surely take place in Fred's apartment. Scott reluctantly succumbs, and the next day Fred sets up an audition for him. But Scott blows this opportunity, as he has most others in his life - he leaves hostile messages on Fred's answering machine.
The production was cleverly directed in an entertaining, almost comic style - it is a sad story that reaches its inevitable conclusion. It could do well as a film, which is apparently in the works.
Jason Roth (Scott) was commendable - he brought out the tortured turmoil well, although he could have modulated his characterization more. Hannah Dalton (Laura) was excellent, though she sometimes tended to mumble. Michael Portantiere (Fred) was chillingly impressive and credible. Heather Baker (Brenda and Jillian, a character of no apparent dramatic value) did a good job. Brian Eric Stivale (Michael) and Wesley Stevens (Ralph) did the best they could with what was given to them.
The lighting, by Wendy Range, was perfect, as was the set
of F.T. Ebb - this was a believable Gramercy Park apartment.
Al Roach's costumes definitely belonged.
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Copyright 1999 Sheila Mart