Wednesday, March 28, 2012

THE VALUE OF NAMES • New Jewish Theatre

Some wounds are harder to heal than others, and the latest offering from New Jewish, written by Jeffrey Sweet and directed by Alec Wild, deals with injuries sustained from the fallout of McCarthyism.  The associated hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) reached their height in the 50's, and many lost their careers and reputations in the aftermath.
Benny Silverman (Bobby Miller), once a successful comedic actor, went for years without work because he ended up on the Hollywood blacklist.  He eventually landed a hit sitcom that affords him a comfortable life with a home in the hills of Malibu.  His daughter Norma (Elana Kepner) is also an actor, and she's just landed a promising role, but has opted to change her last name to her mother's maiden name.  She doesn't want to be constantly associated with her famous dad, but the conversation sets Benny's teeth on edge.  To add insult to injury, Benny finds out that the newly appointed director for Norma's show is Leo Greshen (Peter Mayer), a successful Hollywood director who was Benny's theatre buddy from the old days -- until Leo called him out as a communist sympathizer about thirty years prior.  Yep.  When Leo shows up on Benny's patio, it hits the fan and old wounds are opened.

Peter Mayer (Leo Greshen) and Bobby Miller (Benny Silverman).
Photo credit: John Lamb
The play itself is okay -- just seems to scratch the surface, but it's kept afloat by the performances, primarily Bobby Miller's perfect timing and comedic charm as the irascible Benny along with Peter Mayer's Leo -- cocky, but seeking forgiveness.  Elana Kepner as Benny's daughter Norma nicely holds her own with these two, and steps aside occasionally to narrate the action.  Dunsi Dai's typically perfect set design contributes greatly to Benny's beachfront patio, and is reinforced with Maureen Berry's lighting and Teresa Doggett's costume design.

It's got some great performances, and it's only going on till this weekend.
Bobby Miller (Benny Silverman) and
Elana Kepner (Norma Silverman).
Photo credit: John Lamb

Written by Jeffrey Sweet
Directed by Alec Wild
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through April 1 | tickets: $35.50 - $39.50
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm & 7:30pm

Bobby Miller* (Benny Silverman), Elana Kepner* (Norma Silverman) and Peter Mayer* (Leo Greshen).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Scenic design by Dunsi Dai; lighting design by Maureen Berry; costume design by Teresa Doggett; sound design by Steve Neale; stage manager, Lee Anne Mathews.

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