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St. Louis by Richard Green

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me
RS Theatrics

Also see Richard's review of Love! Valour! Compassion!


Paul Cereghino, Mark Kelley, Todd Micali
Challenging for the actors, and sometimes even challenging for the audience, the RS Theatrics production of Frank McGuinness' 1992 hostage drama gives us three outstanding performers to approach their crisis in three very different ways.

The actors are Paul Cereghino, who seems to craft each moment honestly and lyrically, like a sculptor; Todd Micali, inhabiting a realm somewhere between a human lightning bolt and a Dustin Hoffman-type (but I repeat myself); and Mark Kelley, who disappears seamlessly into the role of an Irish journalist. All are thrown into a situation filled with endless despair and mad hope, in equal measure.

There's also a fourth man here, behind the scenes: director Ryan Foizey, also young and dynamic, which may account for the power he has to trust his actors, encouraging them to fill each moment as their own gifts guide them. As a performance piece, it's powerful, and bewildering, tense and original.

All that being true, and 88.739% of the evening being perfectly compelling, I think that one thing could be fixed, in the relationship between Edward and Michael in the show's second half. Actually, it may need fixing in the first half, to set off the change in their relationship, in the second half. It seems to me there isn't enough tension or enmity or jealousy (over Adam?) to give interest, or torque to the sole focus on the changes for Edward and Michael later on. Just one man's opinion, of course.

But don't be surprised if you hear complaints from others about the show seeming over-long in the final three or four scenes: two of my critic friends were literally writhing in dismay in the final 30 minutes, on either side of me (although the very last scene is perfectly fine, I should say). I think it's because, somehow, the relationship between Edward and Michael just doesn't have anywhere to go after the first half of the show (after "scene five"). There probably needs to be some unpleasantness between them in that first half, to be resolved later, to fill-out the story. I'd respectfully suggest prison rape. But then I always suggest prison rape. You should have seen my review of Hello, Dolly!.

But, regarding the critics on either side of me, and their apparent anguish: isn't it supposed to be grueling? Isn't a play like this supposed to give us a sense of the characters' suffering? If most of the last 30 minutes are endless and exasperating for a few of us, isn't that just part of the bargain for a hostage drama? Doesn't that mean director Foizey achieved his goal? If we all went to Hello, Dolly! and sat there humming the tunes, wouldn't it be exactly the same level of dramatic success as we see here?

But the three captives (in Lebanon) fill their time with fantasies of freedom, and writing imaginary letters home (which, obviously, turns into a powder-keg of emotions), and arguing about national identities—being an American, an Irishman, and a Brit, among other things. It's a play about what men decide they still are, when they've been reduced to almost nothing.

Mr. Cereghino is haunting and compelling trying to prop up his character's sense of self-worth, as he reminds himself that (as an American) he is the most valuable of the hostages, despite his long-suppressed panic. Perhaps we'll never need to see Cereghino as Hamlet, because he already adds so great a level of dubious, corrosive introspection to every role he plays.

Mr. Micali is outstanding, especially in his first moments in the hostage room, and as lively and interesting and dynamic as can be—though I sometimes felt that (when it seemed that things had slowed down in the second half) he may have been adopting the mannerisms of "Great Actors" to carry him through, in portraying his character's native nobility: as if borrowing from some Cinemascope extravaganza. Why not just see where the given circumstances lead you, and be the "third banana," even if—or especially if—it means you only feel even more isolated as a result. It'll add to your final moments, even more. But, in his defense, his character is an expert on English language and history, so he may reasonably have a greater affinity for the towering figures of his native land. Nobility, presumed or not, may be his most logical choice.

And Mr. Kelley, as the lanky Irishman, is just so purely woven into the fabric of the show that it's stunning to watch as he transforms into a buzzard, or a jackrabbit, on top of what he's already doing, as the story requires. His unassailable performance defies critical examination, as he has become so completely real in the situation.

As I have been a little harsh with Mr. Micali, I'd also like to point out a very smooth moment of stagecraft on his part, when the steel pin holding his chain to the floor came half-way out of the raked stage platform on opening night. Without the slightest hesitation, he invisibly incorporated a fix in the placement of that big steel "eye hook" in a fraction of a second, while distracting us quite effectively with a food pan. Excellent. Maybe he wasn't just impersonating some Great Actor, after all.

Winner of the 1993 Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Play, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me continues through June 29, 2014, at the Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive, off Skinker Blvd., just south of Wydown Blvd.. Friday/Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 7 pm For more information call (314) 456-0071 or visit www.r-stheatrics.com.

Cast
Adam: Paul Cereghino
Edward: Mark Kelley
Michael: Todd Micali

Staff
Director: Ryan Foizey
Stage Manager: Beth Wickenhauser
Assistant Stage Manager: Nikki Lott
Dialect Coach: Daniel Thomas Blackwell
Costume Design: Ruth Schmelenberger
Lighting Design: Nathan Schroeder
Sound Design: Mark Kelley
Artistic Director: Christina Rios
Managing Director: Heather Tucker


Photo: Michael Young


-- Richard T. Green

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