Why theatre has gone to the Devil

Movers and Shakers

Written and directed by Frank Biancamano
Theater for the New City
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Maya T. Amis

A comedy of failure, success, and various combinations of the two, Movers and Shakers is set in the intersecting (and opposing) worlds of stage and film. A young playwright is in despair over his inability to write a successful show when he is suddenly visited by a mysterious producer. As the playwright becomes, like it or not, a successful screenwriter, he is obsessed with discovering whether his producer is merely a canny and lucky individual or the devil himself. Along the way, he meets various entertainment types and eventually, of course, finds himself. This diverting take on Faust delights in poking fun at pretension, ambition, and simplistic morality, and does its own lecturing with a light touch. It does not take itself too seriously: the backers are the Karamazov brothers. Author/director Frank Biancamano is deft with put-down lines about the entertainment industry, the opposing coasts, and modern life in general, but blessedly the play does not deteriorate into a series of one-liners. Clues about the identity of the producer are clever, and while the characters are types, they are still interesting. The humor, the personalities, and the question of whether the producer is truly supernatural keep the play engaging while Biancamano's direction kept it moving at a decent pace.

David Ige played the writer as a frenetic, insecure creature, perpetually hunched in misery or self-defense. He moved stiffly, like an Ed Sullivan parody. His whole body was tensed, and it was startling when he finally began to relax and stand up straight. T.D. White was charismatic as the producer, who had both wonderfully nasty lines and the task of weaving an enticing web of temptation; occasional lapses of memory only slightly marred a mesmerizing performance. He brought subtlety and conviction to a part which could have been reduced to a caricature of evil. The film's director was played by Kathleen Gates, who balanced the tough, even bitchy character with a touch of suppressed tenderness. The Brothers Karamazov were a kind of bickering vaudeville act, nicely done by Jerry Jaffe and Martin Rudy. Antonia Stout played an ambitious actress with a kind of cold-blooded naivete, Ari Tomais was her leading man and a grasping hotel manager, and Jess Hanks played the only truly sensible person in the bunch, a waiter who doesn't want to be in show business.

The set converted cleverly from a seedy hotel room, clearly furnished from the streets, to luxurious accommodations with a touch of art deco. The budget was clearly limited, and no attempt was made at complete realism, but the overall effect was very successful. Costumes, designed by Mary Marsicano, were excellent; they not only helped to establish character, but they told part of the story, as in the change from the sloppy faded jeans and Shadowbox sweatshirt on the aspiring Off-Broadway writer to the pretentious European-style suit he wears in his quest to become a movie writer. The no-frills lighting was designed by Ian Gordon.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Maya T. Amis

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