Beverly Bonner is nothing if not entrepreneurial. The program insert for this play says, "...we require the following of actors coming in for the next level of The Manhattan Towers Project: Talented, Non-Equity, dependable, focused, actors who understand that show business is a BUSINESS and are willing to, not only be dedicated and professional actors, but are willing to work in all areas to make the show a success (i.e. promoting, selling tickets). Actors must also be willing to invest money in the production to become limited partners and share in the profits. Further, we want actors who will make this show their priority ... We're going to the top, want to join us?"
Ms. Bonner has also shown a knack for cross-pollinating with celebrities to promote the production. In addition, she has a weekly cable show and offers six-week courses (at modest rates) leading up to participation in a segment. In short, an up-and-comer.
Alas, Manhattan Towers itself is very much in the formative stages, in writing, directing, acting, and technical prowess. Set in a laundry room in an apartment building devoted to showbiz types, it depicts a tangled and improbable story of the apartment's denizens, notably Lu Labon (Ms. Bonner), an aspiring playwright, and her friend Mona Price (Carol Serrano), a successful TV-commercial writer. A knotty web involving a mute box-dweller (Charles L. Coker), a crooked super (James R. Garrett) and a cop on the take (Ray Wasik) is explained only by a voice-over from a TV-show narrator. (This despite earnest exposition, in which the actors patiently reminisce to each other over details they already know.) Additional characters are Lu's snotty sister (Angela Hammond) and a successful TV actor who happens also to be a gigolo (Gordon Gatherer). The program alone did not suffice to keep straight these and the host of other characters in the play (some were listed who didn't appear; some appeared but weren't listed. Also, many roles were played by alternate actors, no doubt thereby increasing the show's capitalization).
There were some laughs between the two principals, but the play compared unfavorably with such works as Transsexuals on the Run and Dressing Room Divas, which, while flagrantly cheesy and over-the-top, have halfway-believable characters and stories that can be followed. Mr. Gatherer typifiedTowers' style of acting when (in gigolo mode) he melodramatically eyeballed a character's ring as he kissed her hand - twice.
The set was a line of schematic appliances cut from Foamcore, as revealed when one of them fell over. Luckily no one took up the announcer's suggestion and sat front row center, as a chair fell there during a spirited fight. The lights failed to illuminate the apron, so actors disappeared into downstage gloom when they bent down.
Ms. Bonner is game and audacious, no doubt. Can her vehicles keep up with her ambition?
(Also featuring Chris Byrnes, Molly Harrington, William White, Claresa J. Mandola, Tony Bonsignore, Stephanie Butts, Joan Phillips, Dawn Thompson, Daphnee Fortunat, and Carl Garrison.)
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Copyright 1998 John Chatterton