The Gathering, which opened last night at the Cort Theatre, is an oddly disturbing small play first presented Off Broadway two years ago to significant critical and popular response. Here, in a new and imposing staging, framed in Michael Anania's great granite slabs of a setting, its impact has been diminished. Some plays appear to be served best in an intimate venue and Arje Shaw's engrossing story of the conflicts between three generations of a family struggling with the consequences of the Holocaust is one of them.
Still, thanks to Rebecca Taylor's simple but telling direction and a superb cast, there's a lot here to make one think. Mr. Shaw has been quoted that The Gathering is a play which asks "When is the time to move on? What happens when you hold on? What responsibility is there for loss and reparations?" I would submit that it's also about children damaged by parents in denial and the terrible cost of personal grief kept secret from each succeeding generation.
Hal Linden, as the iconoclastic Gabe, a Jewish sculptor and Nazi refugee, is giving a remarkable performance, one sustained in subtle nuance and gruff, demanding, and endearing impertinence throughout the evening. Sam Guncler, as his son Stuart, a speech writer for President Reagan, is more than convincing in a role which evolves from stoic impatience to anguished confession to emotional resolution and closure. Max Dworin, as Gabe's grandson Michael, avoids all traces of cuteness and delivers an ultimately touching performance as a boy who wants becoming a man to be something more than a showy ceremony.
Deirdre Lovejoy, as Stuart's wife and Michael's mother, is appropriately compassionate as the member of the family who will always be, to some extent, an outsider. Coleman Zeigen, as Egon, a German soldier who refuses to accept the burden of Nazi guilt, is effectively restrained in both manner and argument, and resists the temptation to play cultural differences as insignificant.
Though many in the audience will see themselves and their family in this play, and there are a number of laughs showing how all families at times function in similar ways, be warned that The Gathering can be a difficult and uncomfortable theatrical experience. But, it can also be a rewarding one.
The Gathering by Arje Shaw. Directed by Rebecca Taylor. Scenery by Michael Anania. Costumes by Susan Soetaert. Lighting by Scott Clyve. Sound by T. Richard Fitzgerald. Starring Hal Linden with Max Dworin, Sam Guncler, Deirdre Lovejoy, Coleman Zeigen.
Theatre: Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 10 and under. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Running time: 2 hours including one 15 minute intermission.
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: Orchestra $65, Mezzanine $65 and $55, Balcony $30 A $1.25 Facilities Fee will be added to the price of each ticket.
Student Rush: $25 Student Rush tickets are available at the Box Office on the day of performance. Valid Student identification must be presented with a limit of 2 tickets per I.D., subject to availability. Cash Only.
Standing Room: $15 Available at the Box Office only, day of performance only (when the Box Office opens), and only if the performance is sold out. Limit 2 tickets per person.
Tickets online: Tele-charge
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - Inside the NY metro area (212) 239-2969 Outside the NY metro area (888) 268-2020
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
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Tickets by snail mail: The Gathering, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998