What Happened to Romance?

Cute Lonely Guys Looking for You & Hermione

By John Attanas
New Directions Theatre/I.R.T.
Samuel Beckett Theatre
410 West 42nd St. (229-7500)
Equity showcase (closes November 1)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

Word games, bathroom humor, and throw-away lines worth saving embroidered a charming evening of one-acts. Neil Simon's done worse.The stories of these plays were less finished than their development-not necessarily a major criticism for an evening of well-stirred froth. For example, a young man has problems finding a suitable lover, then he finds one, then he abandons her - meanwhile he may have contributed to another one's suicide. A long monologue about baseball may elucidate the theme. But the ball never quite goes over the plate; and the conclusion, though very well choreographed, leaves no clear meaning of it all.Eliza Beckwith's direction in that play was often inspired (especially on roller skates), but when people got on and off the stage on rolling furniture (via dismembered arms and strings) it sounded like iron ingots in coal buckets.

Glen Williamson played the social worker whose sexual angst takes him 12 steps into alcoholism, and even leads him to stalk a gorgeous model (Christa Scott-Reed). Once he gets the girl, the story's over; but the play continues as he takes revenge on his brother, a bit of a shit played by Joseph Greene.Only his mother, played by the wonderful Jacqueline Barsh, loves him as a mother can. (She's of the "first you get thin, then you die" school of cooking.)

Jamie Heinlein was quite funny as a dyspeptic and very occasional actress. The other girlfriends (all the actors were good) included Courtney Rohler and Cindy Chesler. James Sutton, in the second play, created a real treasure out of "Freddy," a hospital bedpan changer, "ugly as sin,"who finds true love with a comatose patient. Mr. Sutton (who plays ugly but isn't) deliciously savored the scent of a rose (which pricked his finger) and the song of a bird (which pecked his hand). All the sight gags were brilliantly directed by Charles Loffredo. The object of Freddy's affection, the eponymous "Hermione," slept even through the curtain call. But Grant McKeown as Father Abromowitz was on the nose playing charades. Ted Brunson as the brilliantly mugging plastic face of a puppet completely stole the show.

The sets, designed by Alexis Dennis, included parenthetical panels, which seemed literarily appropriate. Expert lighting by Jennifer J. Mann included a ballroom glitter ball dancing the Bossa Nova. The costumes by Julia Van Vliet were amusing.The sound, designed by Mr. Loffredo, included some nice jazz, plus especially convincing crashing dishes and windows.It would appear from the author's rare skill in creating likable characters that he should have no problems attracting love into his life. What neither play made clear, however, is whether it's the author or his characters who suffer most from the growing pains of learning to recognize that romantic illusion is simply that.

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

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Copyright 1997 Marshall Yaeger