All in the family

Side Man

By Warren Leight
Directed by Heather Siobhan Curran
Gallery Players
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, but some families might be better off with a little bit of distance between them. So it is with the central family in Side Man, a highly dysfunctional couple and their son who barely survive decades of abuse, addiction, and angst during the period between the 1950s and 1985.

Gene (John Blaylock) is a jazz trumpet player who gets steady work backing up major bandleaders. Unfortunately, this leads to a very uncertain lifestyle for his wife, Terry (Erin Kate Howard), who seems to want more stability -- and more time with her husband, who stays out late after most gigs. The confrontations escalate over the years in front of their child, Clifford (Jason Winfield), who as a result is older than his years and learns how to keep the peace between his alcoholic mother and clueless father.

Warren Leight’s bittersweet story is told from Clifford’s point of view, and director Heather Siobhan Curran collaborated with actor Winfield to make the character a likable, sympathetic person. But Curran also allowed the audience to feel for both of the parents as well, and Blaylock and Howard were up to the challenge.

The rest of the cast also made their mark in the two-act drama, including Amy L. Smith as a supportive club waitress and D.H. Johnson, Patrick Toon, and Daniel Damiano as session men who play with Gene and all lead variations of his directionless life. One lesson that seems to emerge, however, is an age-old artist's edict -- if you love your craft, it can sometimes be enough to keep you going.

This Gallery Players production offered the usual high-quality technical support. Cully Long kept the settings simple for easy transitions, and Sean Sullivan costumed the characters in the proper vintage attire. Kate Ashton illuminated the action, fittingly using bare bulbs to add to the ambiance, and Martin Miller contributed the clear-as-a-bell sound.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2005 Elias Stimac