‘A Day by the Sea’ is Superb Play Writing for a Winning Production

Photo: A Day By the Sea By N.C. Hunter Directed By Austin Pendleton; presented by The Mint Theater Cast; Curzon Dobell; Julian Elfer; Katie Firth; Philip Goodwin; Sean Gormley; Polly McKie Kylie McVey; George Morfogen; ?Athan Sporek?; Jill Tanner Dress rehearsal photographed: Thursday, July 21, 2016; 4:30 PM at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street; NYC; Photograph: © 2016 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine
Photo: A Day By the Sea By N.C. Hunter Directed By Austin Pendleton; presented by The Mint Theater now playing at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street; NYC. Photograph: © 2016 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

There are times when one sees a play so well put together that you say to yourself “now that’s how it should be done.”  A Day by the Sea by N.C. Hunter is one of those plays. The production now running in New York City is presented by the Mint Theater Company and directed by Austin Pendleton. It marks the Mint’s first production as a resident theater company at Theatre Row and it is a perfect spot to see this show.  A Day by the Sea flows beautifully and keeps the audience interested throughout the entire production.  A main plot and several subplots develop through the two hours and 40 minutes of the three acts. The plots are not really intertwined, but they run quite seamlessly beside each other.

Upon entering the theater, the set for Act I, the garden of Laura Anson’s home in Dorset, is on display.  Lovely soft piano music especially written for this show plays in the background and the occasional sound of seagull can be heard. It creates a very relaxing feeling and reminds one that the home is close to the English seaside. With the very warm August weather, such a setting was a welcome relief to the heat outside the Beckett.

The main plot for A Day by the Sea centers on Julian Anson, a once promising Foreign Service employee, who has allowed his career to become the center of his life.  These days we might call such a man a “workaholic” but by many, he was revered as trying to make a name for himself and establish a brilliant record of service.  His mother, Laura, has tried to encourage him to have a life outside of work. But Julian persevered in his career landing himself in a plum position in Paris. This visit to the seaside is one of the few times that he has allowed himself some sort of break.

Photo: Curzon Dobell; Julian Elfer; Katie Firth; Philip Goodwin; Sean Gormley; Polly McKie Kylie McVey; George Morfogen; Athan Sporek, Jill Tanner Dress rehearsal photographed: Thursday, July 21, 2016; 4:30 PM at The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street; NYC; Photograph: © 2016 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine
Photo: Curzon Dobell; Julian Elfer; Katie Firth; Philip Goodwin; Sean Gormley; Polly McKie Kylie McVey; George Morfogen; Athan Sporek, Jill Tanner Photograph: © 2016 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

Julian is middle aged, somewhere in his 40’s, not married, and not concerned about having a life until his work supervisor comes to visit him. The news the man brings is life changing for Julian. Next, he learns that another guest at the house, Frances, has kept a secret that involved him for many years. His decision to confront this situation sets the second part of the play in motion.

Along with Julian’s dilemma, there are also subplots involving other members of the household including the governess Miss Mathieson and her attraction to the alcoholic Doctor Farley, the declining health of David, and the needs of Laura to maintain order all around.

Sounds confusing? It’s not. All of these plots and subplots play out quite easily and very nicely due to Playwright Hunter’s skillful creation of dialog and progression of the story line. Some situations are resolved and others show hints but not resolutions.

So, in the grand scheme of life, events like these become a part of life and definitely a reason one needs a day by the sea.

Fine performances are given from a cast that features Curzon Dobell, Julian Elfer, Katie Firth, Philip Goodwin, Sean Gormley, Polly McKie, Kylie McVey, George Morfogen, Athan Sporek, and Jill Tanner.

For theater goers who can’t get enough of well written shows, this is a must see.

About the Show:

Running Time: The play is in three acts which gives the entire play a run time 140 minutes plus two intermissions.

Artistic Staff:  Scenic design by Charles Morgan; costume design by Martha Hally; lighting design by Xavier Pierce; and sound design by Jane Shaw.

Location: Main Stage: The Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street between 9th and Dyer Avenues, New York City.

Performances:  A Day by the Sea is currently running through September 24, 2016.  Performances are on Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm. Special Wednesday Matinees on August 24th at September 21st at 2:30 PM.

Contact for Info and Tickets: For more information, visit minttheater.org. Tickets for all performances are $57.50 (including $2.25 theater restoration fee) and can be purchased online at Telecharge.com, by phone at 212-239-6200 or in person at the Theatre Row Box Office.

‘Butler’ Gives New Look at a Civil War Incident

L-R: Benjamin Sterling (as Lieutenant Kelly) and Ames Adamson (as Benjamin Butler) in Richard Strand’s BUTLER, directed by Joseph Discher, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
L-R: Benjamin Sterling (as Lieutenant Kelly) and Ames Adamson (as Benjamin Butler) in Richard Strand’s BUTLER, directed by Joseph Discher, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

A play set during the early days of the Civil War opened last week at New York City’s 59E59 Theaters. Butler, by playwright Richard Strand, celebrated its Off-Broadway Opening Night to a full house of enthusiastic theatergoers. The show is produced by the New Jersey Repertory Company out of Long Branch, NJ where Butler had its world premiere in 2014. The play was the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award.

Joseph Discher, who directs this production also directed the world premiere of Butler at New Jersey Repertory company. His direction allows the outstanding dialog written by playwright Strand to come through in a forthright manner. And although the subject matter is very serious, there is a lot of humor that was written in allowing the audience to ingest the concepts more easily.

L-R: Ames Adamson (as Benjamin Butler) and John G. Williams (as Shepard Mallory) in Richard Strand’s BUTLER, directed by Joseph Discher, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
L-R: Ames Adamson (as Benjamin Butler) and John G. Williams (as Shepard Mallory) in Richard Strand’s BUTLER, directed by Joseph Discher, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
The plot involves Major General Benjamin Butler who was a lawyer up until a few weeks before he assumed his post at Fort Monroe in Virginia. The Fort is a Union stronghold. The demeanor and thinking of Major General Butler contrasts with that of Lieutenant Kelly who as a graduate of West Point is well established in the Army. A runaway slave named Shepard Mallory enters the Fort with two other runaways seeking sanctuary from their slave owners. Mallory impresses both Butler and eventually Kelly and each want to try to keep him from harm. However, the Fugitive Slave Act is still very much in use which forces the two officers to make good on a request to return the slaves to their owners. When Major Cary comes to claim them, lots of things start to happen. The ending is nicely done with a few pieces still up in the air, but with a precedence for how they might be resolved.

Ames Adamson plays a multi-facted man in his portrayal of Benjamin Butler. Benjamin Sterling provides a staunch view of a career soldier as Lieutenant Kelly. John G. Williams portrays Shepard Mallory allowing both sadness and hope to emerge for his character. David Sitler plays Major Carey with a firm footing in the manners of a southern man who has become a soldier.

A good story line, fine dialog, and good acting all add to this show. But what underlies the entire production are questions about other people that both the Major General and Lieutenant deal with. The fact that neither one has ever had a conversation with a slave or an African American enters the discussion. How they come to view Shepard is a testament to the ability to have open communication between people. Maybe that point is something which is still in the air today as we strive to bridge the problems between races even today.

Butler will continue to run at the east side theater through Sunday, August 28, 2016. Additional shows have been added on Sunday evenings. Check the 59E56th Street Theater website, http://www.59e59.org for more information.

About the Show:

Running Time: 2 hours (approx.) with one intermission
Location: 59 E. 59th Street Theatre, 59 E. 59th Street, New York City, NY
Performances: Tuesday – Thursday at 7 PM; Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8 PM; Sunday at 3 PM, with added 7 PM on Sunday, August 14 and Sunday, August 21.
Contact for Info and Tickets: The website for this theater – http://www.59e59.org/
Suggested Audience: The subject matter might be difficult for young children to understand but teens could handle this especially those who have had some studies about the Civil War.

‘Friend Art’ Looks at Friendship and Life

Pictured: Constantine Maroulis, Anabelle LeMieux, Aaron Costa Ganis and Zoe Chao; photo by Joan Marcus as shared on Second Stage Theatre Facebook page.
Pictured: Constantine Maroulis, Anabelle LeMieux, Aaron Costa Ganis and Zoe Chao; photo by Joan Marcus as shared on Second Stage Theatre Facebook page.
A play titled Friend Art finishes its run tomorrow at the 2econd Stage Theatre Uptown. Written by Sofia Alvarez and directed by Portia Krieger, it is a good play which is on the surface light-hearted but underneath it has some serious things to say.

The lightheartedness comes through when one of the characters, Lil, makes continued attempts to produce a solo performance artist piece.  The recitation is funny and it involves a stuffed snake which later serves a more “sensuous” role. Lil’s friends, Kevin, Molly, and Nate, are among the few who come to see her shows. They do it because she is a friend and since she is their friend, they go to support her hence the title of the show, Friend Art. The show continues with Kevin and Molly trying to plan their wedding and an impending move. However, at some point, Kevin decides to taste what it is like to be in the world of real art. He teams up with Lil to bring in a better quality to her show and hopefully to increase the size of the audience. This leaves Molly to develop a new relationship with Nate. Nate is the character who had been a one hit wonder in the record business years before. He made enough money that he was able to buy a nice loft in Brooklyn and not have to work. This frees him to pursue an aimless existence. He’s not really pleased with where he is at but he isn’t sure of where to go from there.

All of the situations that the four characters are involved in provide a reason for examination of a deeper situation past the light hearted look of the just the performance that Lil gives. In this case, that situation is all about moving into a new part of adulthood and taking on new responsibilities.  We also get a chance to reflect on the value that friendships hold in our lives and how they can be so vital to us at certain points, but then change to a new relationship as own on life situations changes.

Three of the characters in the show, Lil, Molly, and Kevin, are a part of the Millennial Generation and the fourth, Nate, would be on the cusp between the Millennials and Gen X.  So it should not be unexpected to see them grappling with life changing situations. The Millennial Generation is already proving themselves to be a fascinating group of people who are already influencing the arts, culture, and business. This play is timely in looking at their changing life situations.

The cast for this show includes Anabelle Lemieux as Lil, Zoe Chao as Molly, Aaron Costa Ganis as Kevin and Constantine Maroulis as Nate. Each character was well developed and leave few if any questions in the minds of the audience as to what they are about. Fine performances are seen from this group.

The show, which runs approximately 85 minutes, moves at a quick pace in spots but it allows character development in several pivotal points. It would have been nice to see an extension given to this show at the 2econd Stage Uptown Theater. But like the characters in the show it appears to be time to move on. Hopefully, it will surface again soon in some Off-Broadway location.