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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Donald Margulies' Brooklyn Boy
is a Deeply Penetrating Drama

Also see Richard's reviews of A Chorus Line and Li'l Abner

Brooklyn Boy
Victor Talmadge and Ray Reinhardt
The provocative Brooklyn Boy is currently being presented by TheatreWorks at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. The play is an insightful set of vignette scenes performed by an excellent cast of actors.

Brooklyn Boy is about 51-year-old best-selling author Eric Weiss (Victor Talmadge), who has spent most of his life trying to forget his childhood in Brooklyn. He distances himself from his religion and his culture. After several minor successes as an author, his new book, based on his past, is a best seller and Paramount Studios has purchased the rights to the story. He returns to his old neighborhood because his father Manny (Ray Reinhardt) is dying. Eric's confrontation with his father in the first scene is a little masterpiece with sharp dialogue between father and son.

In the next scene in the hospital cafeteria, Eric encounters childhood friend Ira (David Kudler) who shows a strain of envy. Ira asks, "What is it you were born with that I wasn't?" Eric also encounters his ex-wife Nina (Pamela Gaye Walker) in a brilliant war of words on how the author's success has contaminated their relationship since the wife is a failed writer.

Eric goes to Hollywood where he picks up a very young college student, Alison (Kristin Stokes), at a book signing. She is what is called a "book groupie" and she's enamored with the author's book. What was supposed to be a sexual meeting turns out to be a discussion of the young woman's feelings about books today. As she says, "fiction is so over."

Eric encounters a typical Hollywood producer, Melanie (Amy Resnick), who will produce the film version of the book. She thinks the book is too Jewish - "a touch too ethnic It's one thing to be Jewish in a book and another to be Jewish in a movie." In the only scene that involves three characters, Eric is introduced to hunk actor Tyler Shaw (Craig W. Marker) who is rising to stardom in a television series called "Outlaw Billy." This blond wasp actor is the exact opposite of a Brooklyn boy. This is a hilarious over the top scene that is so true in Hollywood.

In Brooklyn Boy's very touching final scene, Ira turns up again after the death of Eric's father. He tries to talk Eric into sitting Shiva for his deceased father. Eric's conversation with his dead father provides a touching, bittersweet conclusion.

Director Joy Carlin has assembled an excellent cast of top-flight actors, each of whom gives a superb performance. The director brings out the emotional impact of each of the characters. Victor Talmadge (Sherlock Holmes at Pasadena Playhouse and the King in a national tour of The King and I ) as Eric is on stage for the complete drama. He is exceptional playing the role as an unreceptive and mystified naive person.

Ray Reinhardt (Broadway's Tiny Alice and A Flea In Her Ear plus many regional productions) gives a superb performance as the gruff father with an overwhelming tendency to withhold warmth.

Craig W. Marker (Iphigenia at Aulis, Shakespeare in Hollywood) gives a first rate performance as the egocentric television actor. Amy Resnick (Pride's Crossing, Present Laughter at TheatreWorks) is marvelous as the brash film producer. It is almost a caricature of a typical Hollywood producer. David Kudler (many regional theatre productions) is wonderfully effusive as Ira while Pamela Gaye Walker (Chicago actress) creates a memorable performance as the ex-wife of Eric.

Annie Smart's set is a detailed hospital, cafeteria, Hollywood hotel room, producer's office and living room, all on a moveable circular stage. Lighting designer Michael Palumbo gives a realistic mood to each scene. Taisia Nikonishchenko's costumes are right on the mark. Joy Carlin's direction gives each character a distinctive personality.

Brooklyn Boy runs through August 13th at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto. Tickets can be purchased at 650-903-6000 or at www.theatreworks.org. Their next production will be a revival of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award winning M. Butterfly starring Francis Jue.


Photo: David Allen


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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