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Off Broadway Reviews

Only Yesterday

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - September 12, 2019

Tommy Crawford and Christopher Sears
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Seems like only yesterday when the screaming fan-driven phenomenon known as Beatlemania swept across Britain and the United States. So it is only fitting that Bob Stevens's sweetly wistful and tender-hearted play about a single day with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, opening tonight at 59E59 Theaters, is titled Only Yesterday.

A warm soaking bath of nostalgia, Only Yesterday is sure to put a smile on the face and perhaps bring a teardrop to the eye of Beatles aficionados, especially for those of us who were young and self-absorbed back then and all our troubles seemed so far away. Never mind that the predominant issues of this time in 1964 were the Vietnam War, unmentioned in the play, and the U. S. Civil Rights Movement, which is briefly brought up.

Was Sir James Paul McCartney, now 77 and still very active as a performer, ever really just Paul and 21 years old, as he is played here with insouciant charm by Tommy Crawford? He is joined by Christopher Sears as John Lennon, edgier and a couple of years older. The two of them are stranded in a cheap motel room in Key West, Florida at the height of a hurricane (Jane Shaw is responsible for the stormy sound design). This break marks a brief pause in the midst of a seemingly endless string of arena concerts that has left Lennon strung out. "Christ, it's madness day and night," he complains. "We are pushed, kicked and trampled everywhere we go."

As if to reinforce this, every time the door to their motel room opens, usually to admit their harried road manager (Christopher Flockton), they are met with a hurricane-loud roar from yowling devotees hoping for even a glimpse. One of gawkers, a young teenager named Shirley (an appealingly awkward Olivia Swayze) manages an inventive way to get even closer, and, happily, the spell remains unbroken as Paul and John set aside their tired cynicism and treat her with warmth and kindness. Of course it's fantasy, but isn't this how we would want our idols to behave?

Don't go looking for a night of deep truths or confessions. The 70-minute play is Bob Stevens's first. He is better known as a television producer and writer for such shows as "Malcolm in the Middle" and "The Wonder Years," and there is a certain episodic quality to the enterprise. Under Carol Dunne's easy-going direction, what we get is fairly straightforward as Paul and John bond over boredom, booze, Monopoly, pillow fights, a shared history of growing up in Liverpool, and, of course, music. Crawford and Sears do a nice job performing snippets of several McCartney/Lennon tunes and by other singers of the era. But really, it's just a day in the life of a couple of guys who happen to make up one half of the cultural phenomenon known as the Beatles.

Only Yesterday
Through September 29
Theater B at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: