Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

The New Century

Without anticipation everything is gone. Anticipation made the opportunity to see The New Century by Paul Rudnick really exciting. Rudnick has earned a reputation as a fine playwright with The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, I Hate Hamlet and Jeffrey.

The New Century is offered by Cleveland's Dobama Theatre. This semi-professional company has offered some of the best local production available in Cleveland. The New Century runs through January 9, 2011.

Unfortunately, The New Century doesn't begin to live up to expectations. The problem is quite simply the script. Rudnick has three characters perform long monologues and sometimes scenes, and then brings all of the characters together in the fourth scene.

The production proves an old theory—a bad script can't be salvaged by a good director and a good cast. Scott Plate, director, is an excellent actor and director. He is now the chair of the Music Theatre program at Baldwin-Wallace College, one of the best music theatre programs in Ohio.

The New Century runs about 85 minutes with one 10-minute intermission. In the first section, Helene Nadler (Jean Kauffman) insists she's a typical Jewish wife and mother. As her monologue continues she reveals her daughter is a lesbian, one son is gay and the other is transsexual. Helene wants to be a good, strong, supportive mother and supports each of her children with their sexual issues. Kauffman makes the character interesting and involving. She indicates that her children aren't quite what she expected, but she loves them and will support them.

In the second scene, Mr. Charles (Greg Violand) is what some would call a "flaming queen." He has a gay TV show broadcast early in the morning on a remote cable channel. Few see his show, which supports gay issues. His sidekick Shane (Steven J. West) plays all of Mr. Charles' supporting characters on the TV show. The role received a great deal of local publicity because West has a brief nude scene. In other productions Violand has proved himself to be an excellent actor. Unfortunately he tries too hard to make Mr. Charles clever, witty and way over the gay top.

The third scene deals with Barbara Ellen Diggs (Molly McGinnis). In her monologue, Diggs talks about making crafts—knitting and other creative works. As she talks she reveals her son died of AIDS. She combines her thoughts about her son's illness and death and her craft work, making several references to the AIDS quilt. This monologue has the potential to be emotionally moving. Unfortunately, McGinnis rushes her lines and the scene doesn't begin to reach its emotional potential.

The final scene brings all of the characters together in a hospital nursery where they discuss what the life of each baby would be like if they could magically make a baby gay, lesbian, transsexual or straight.

This is one of those times I'd like to play the playwriting instructor and write on the script. "Mr. Rudnick - DO AGAIN."

Dobama Theatre will do it again. The next production for the theater will be Keith Huff's A Steady Rain, February 25 through March 20, 2011. A Steady Rain successfully ran on Broadway with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in leading roles.

Dobama Theatre has a mission of bring new scripts to Cleveland. I remember seeing Angels in America in the Dobama Theatre with Scott Plate in the cast. We seem to have gone full circle. But it's a big circle and theatergoers should keep an eye on Dobama and anticipate the exciting new shows it's bringing to Cleveland.

The New Century
By Paul Rudnick
Helene Nadler: Jean Kauffman
David Nadler/Shane: Steven J. West
Mr. Charles:Greg Violand
Joann Milderry: Caitlin Lewins
Barbara Ellen Diggs: Molly McGinnis
Director: Scott Plate
Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Ticket Information: or 216-932-6838.

- David Ritchey

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