Everybody must get stoned

Say Goodnight, Gracie

By Ralph Pape
Directed by Clark Middleton
The R.E.A.L. Theatre Company
Theatre for the New City
155 1st Ave. (591-1561)
Non-union production (closes April 3)
Review by John Chatterton

This play brings together a cast of '70s types who long for the TV of the '50s. They do a lot of weed and have fractured discourses, with each other and with themselves. They're as disconnected from anything as anyone on Seinfeld (one of their number, Steven, plans to write a sitcom based on their ongoing lives). Like all characters from plays of this period, they all get (at least) one Big Monolog.

This production showed remarkably fine casting. Eric Peterson as Jerry, the wannabe actor whose would-be directors tell him to look in a mirror and realize that the man reflected there will never play Macbeth; his wannabe-writer friend Steven (David Hofmann), who even Jerry says is silly; Ginny (Joanna McNeilly), who might as well be a piece of furniture for the men but who is gradually inching toward a sense of identity; and visitors Bobby (David Willis), the original laid-back freak, and his latest girlfriend, Catherine (Irenka Jakubiak), a stewardess, who have arrived so everyone can go to Steven, Jerry, and Bobby's high-school reunion.

What dramatic tension there is (this play owes more than its title to the Golden Age of TV) comes from Jerry's refusal to go to the reunion, an action that may stem from his latest failure to get a part. Bobby gets everyone incredibly stoned; everyone reminisces about key events in their lives; Jerry finally leaves, with Steven sitting stewing in a drug-induced catatonia in the chair; and Bobby, somewhat inexplicably (this is not a very sexy play), retires to the bedroom, where Ginny and Catherine are taking a nap. (The stirrings of feminist consciousness in the two women suggest an attempt at subplot, but nothing much comes from them. And Steven's apparent sexual confusion will no doubt fester another decade before he can confront it and let it speak its name - or is that too '90s a take on this piece?)

Clark Middleton did a good job of filling some of the longueurs between those monologs with various kinds of background action. A scene of robotic foreplay by Bobby and Catherine and another of male horseplay in the background over earnest foregound girltalk were presented as deliberately forced. Sometimes actors went for a soda and came back with a beer, or asked for a beer and never drank it. (Well, they were pretty stoned.) But generally the action went well with the word, such as the word was, and the actor went very well with the action.

The set of fleamarket rejects and posters, in T.N.C.'s basement black box (aka The Mutant's Tomb), was a perfect fit, as were the nondescript costumes (set dressing and costumes courtesy of Cheap Jacks). The lighting was adequate and incidental music appropriate (Eric Peterson).

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1999 John Chatterton