Thanks for the memories

A Memory Play

by Bob Stewart
directed by Gary Levinson
Moonsoup Productions
Common Basis Theatre
750 8th Ave. Suite 500
Equity Showcase
closes August 23
212-279-4200, or
review by Julie Halpern

MoonSoup Productions is dedicated to the development of new plays and playwrights. Playwright-in-residence Bob Stewart has written a touching, relationship-driven memory play, paying loving homage to Tennessee Williams, with a bit of Back to the Future thrown in. The action shifts from the honeymoon suite of a slightly seedy Atlanta hotel in 1947 to present-day Manhattan, where Bob, a struggling playwright, attempts to heal his family's suffering by re-authoring their lives via his latest play. Setting his play a few hours before his parents' wedding, he hopes to write an ending where his parents don't get married. For much of the evening, it seems that Bob will achieve his goal, but ultimately realizes he cannot rewrite history and makes a commitment to improve the areas of his life that are within his control.

Stev, a cocky Army corporal just returned from Japan, and Judy, a gentle Southern belle, await the arrival of the minister who is to marry them. Glancing at their marriage license, Stev discovers that Judy has lied about her age by five years, causing him to question Judy's past. Judy admits to an affair with another soldier that resulted in her pregnancy and the baby's being given up for adoption. She had hoped that marriage to Stev would free her from the cruelty she endured at the hands of her small-minded neighbors. Enraged that the prim Judy has denied him sexual favors thus far, Stev attacks her physically and verbally and walks out. Bob steps in and out of the action, sometimes taking on the roles of Stev and Judy, and also appearing as Rydell, a flamboyantly gay friend of Judy's and a reluctant minister. A secondary subplot dealing with Stev's homophobia toward the kindly Rydell, and Bob's later admission of his own homosexuality, creates an additional layer of complexity in this dysfunctional family. Somehow the ill-suited lovers accept their fate -- even after a hard look into their miserable future -- and tie the knot. Director Gary Levinson's sensitivity to Stewart's characters and his tightly controlled pacing made the evening fly by.

The performances were uniformly excellent. Gerry Lehane as the conflicted playwright Bob was extremely likable and possessed a quirky ironic wit. Christopher Knoblock had the difficult job of making the violent, insecure Stev interesting, and sensitively explored his character's troubled background, creating a compelling, if repugnant, portrayal. Susan Izatt gave a bravura performance as a the strong-minded yet emotionally crushed Judy.

The simple set (uncredited) had a restful Southern ambience of pinks and greens, with charming period props. Johnallan Melendez's upbeat 1940s popular music enhanced the period feel, and Dori Schwartz's costumes looked great on the attractive cast. Susan Izatt's filmy green dress and exaggerated picture hat (which could easily have been worn by Amanda Wingfield to greet her gentlemen callers) were a bittersweet reminder of a seemingly gracious past marred by ignorance. The uncredited lighting was subtle and flattering.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern