Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Something in the Air at the Alliance Repertory Theatre Company

Noted American playwright Richard Dresser, whose work has been widely performed in theaters, in both the United States and in Europe, has so far written 14 full-length plays, two of which are on view currently in Northern New Jersey professional theaters. The first, The Last Days of Mickey and Jean, a comedy about a mobster on the 'lam,' is at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, the second, is Something In The Air, which opened this past week by the Alliance Repertory Theatre Company at the Edison Valley Playhouse in Edison. It is also a comedy, of the dark, quirky variety. The plot? A down-and-out man seeks to profit from the life insurance policy of a bitter, terminally ill patient.

The central character, Walker, is a nerd of a man (no one has more than one name) who has hit rock bottom. He is jobless, and recently divorced. As the play opens, he is in the office of Neville, a man he believes is a psychoanalyst who can help him. But Neville turns out to be a financial analyst, and he offers Walker the one sure-fire investment left: buying the life insurance policy of a dying man. The man, Cram, will get money to live out his days, and Walker will get the big payoff when Cram dies. That my friends, is all we'll reveal of the diabolical plot. Will Walker get his big payoff? Will Cram die? Will Walker find love? Why is his topcoat so admired? Will greed win? Sorry, you'll have to attend one of the performances at the intimate Edison Valley Playhouse to find out. Revealing anymore of the plot would spoil the fun.

Director Michael Driscoll, the Artistic Director of the ART, has assembled a fine,
experienced cast of four ART members; John Correll (Neville), Robert Scott Sullivan (Walker), Gus Ibranyi (Cram), and Kelly Maizenaski (Nurse Holloway) plus, one very talented ART newcomer, Liz Samuel (Sloane). For this play to succeed it depends largely on the viewer's acceptance of Walker as a decent, goofy guy... and Robert Scott Sullivan nicely delivers. His body language and speech clearly reflect a lost soul reluctantly prepared to enter into a dark pact.

Liz Samuel, a clone of Sarah Jessica Parker, is perfect as the attractive mysterious woman named Sloane. The other woman in the cast, also attractive, and with a nice flair for comedy, is Kelly Maizenaski. She plays Nurse Holloway who is prepared to provide unorthodox aid to Walker caught in the dark plan gone wrong. Her best scene involves two glasses of orange juice ..... oops, no more of the plot. 

John Correll nails the part of the financial analyst, Neville. He treasures his membership in a snooty private club whose idea of fine-dining includes a most unusual four legged delicacy, a spear of asparagus costs $75, and the management refuses to tend to a corpse unless it's wearing a jacket and tie. The last excellent member of the cast is Gus Ibranyi as the former travel agent who regrets his recent trip to darkest Africa, and is living (or is it dying) in a seventh floor walk-up. Is he a tragic victim or a scheming opportunist?

The Alliance Repertory Theatre Company's production of Something in the Air is a clever adventure in dark humor performed by a fine cast and well staged by director Michael Driscoll. The production contributors include: Carol Zambell (Producer), Lilli Marques (Costumes), Ed Pearson (Lighting), and Kevin Gunther (Set Construction).

The play, with one intermission, runs about 2 hours. The only weak link in the production is the sterile set and modest props proper table available?

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  October 9, 2011

Not familiar with The Alliance Repertory Theatre Company?
It is a non-profit 501c3 company dedicated to producing distinctive, challenging and thought provoking theater, and to providing local actors, directors and writers the opportunity to display and expand their talents."

It was founded in 1999 and for eight years the company led a nomadic existence
presenting twenty-eight productions in eleven different venues. In 2007 they partnered with the Union County Performing Art Center in Rahway NJ, providing a well established home. While working as a community theater from '99 to '02, the company was nominated for 13 Perry Awards for acting, directing and production value.

In November 2002, they were granted associate membership in the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, the consortium of New Jersey professional theaters. As a professional company, they have received recognition for such productions as "Oleanna", "Spinning Into Butter", "Lobby Hero" and "Blackbird." In the 2009-10 season, ART was awarded both a NewJersey Obie and three New Jersey Theatre World Awards by Peter Filichia of the Star Ledger for supporting roles in "The Drunken City."

This season they are expanding their reach into Middlesex County by adding two
productions being performed at the Edison Valley Playhouse in Edison NJ. See our separate article outlining the entire 2011-12 schedule.

Visit the ART website for directions:

Cast pictures by Howard Fisher:

Walker, Holloway, Sloane and Cram
Cram, Neville and Walker
Sloane and Walker
Cram and Nurse Holloway
Walker and Sloane


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