Quality of life

Freakin' Giuliani

By Robert Liebowitz
Directed by John Elejalde
None of the Above Theatre Company
ATA - Sargent Theater
314 West 54 St. [(718) 278-5919]
Non-union production (closes May 16)
Review by David Mackler

Freakin' Giuliani is dedicated by its author and director to those "who have been adversely affected by the Mayor's crackdown on 'quality of life' crimes-in other words, the citizens of New York City." Set in a vague near future, the play tells of a city which has been sold out to corporate interests- a 1010 WINS newscaster reports on games played at Steinbrenner Stadium and traffic rolls across the Barnes and Noble Brooklyn Bridge- and the crackdown on those quality-of-life crimes the mayor has been so proud of has turned New York into a police state.

Not everyone is unhappy about this trend, though. Nick (Whalen J. Laurence) and Gary (Stuart Brooks) are current versions of Tom Wolfe's self-satisfied "masters of the universe." The expanding economy has grown in their direction, and as they sit in the Giuliani-fortressed Washington Square Park waiting for Nick's newly repaired car to be delivered, they display the arrogance of those who believe their rewards to be solely the well-justified result of their own hard work. But they are not alone in the park- nearby are Missa (Diane Spodarek) and Bone (Robert C. Lake), who, while not specifically homeless, spend most of their days in the park.

Bone, newly out of prison, and Missa (pronounced Miss A, for reasons that show a clever combination of caring and dehumanization) are more directly affected by the crackdown on infractions that have made the city so clean and safe for the Nicks of the world. And because they are so attuned to the requirements of living in a police state, roles are reversed- it is Bone who asks Nick and Gary to not drink beer in the park. He doesn't want to get caught in the fallout of any possible police action.

The play doesn't have much more action than that. Rather it is a character study of these very different people, how they live their lives, and how they cope or thrive while under the surveillance of Big Brother. There are glimpses of Waiting for Godot (when will Nick's car finally arrive?) and No Exit (hell as life in Giuliani's gulag) as these characters and the occasional other (Brooke Martin as Dana, a college student) reveal themselves by their actions - or, for Bone, by his grandstanding. The play is presented as a day in the life of the park (a terrific set by Jerome Martin), a day that is like any other, but this one involves these particular characters. It will happen again tomorrow, maybe Missa and Bone will happen on other rich guys, maybe new Nicks will be introduced to other facets of life by those who have not fit so neatly into the Giuliani vision of what life should be.

Yes, Liebowitz's anger at Giuliani is the overriding force (as you've noted from the play's title). More polemic than diatribe, some of the play is dated already (not because of Giuliani's cancer, but do people argue the O.J. Simpson case anymore?), but there were uniformly excellent performances by Laurence, Spodarek, Lake, Brooks, and Martin, and they gave the play its drive. Laurence had the hardest job, but he was gloriously able to make his unlikable character interesting and even sympathetic.

Lighting (Tim Plummer) and sound (Kristian Fraga) were solid, with the day's progression inexorably marked by the sun and the news reports; costumes (Amanda Rodd) were completely true to the characters. Shame about the title, though - when Nick howls it in its uncensored form at the end, it is a true cry of despair.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 David Mackler