Tips From the Shadows

Written and directed by Michael Jonathan Parness
28th Street Theatre East
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

This ``dark comedy'' features the kind of surrealism that needs to be extremely well done or risk careening toward the ridiculous. Since the resources available to the playwright-director were limited, although there were moments of delight and comedy and some gifted writing, the overall effect was mostly weird.

As the audience entered the theatre to wonderful flamenco recordings, the evening promised a winner--although the angularly surreal set by Michael Allen suggested more than it realized, mixing strange perspectives with typically scrounged-up furniture.

Then the play began, and what became immediately apparent was the miscalculated casting of Norman Siopsis in the lead. Here is a genuine off-off-Broadway trouper, who, when restrained, can exhibit remarkable power, range, imagination, and even sensitivity. But he was allowed to go so far over the top in this role, even breaking props and irritating everyone, that he was well on his way to the Moon. He deserved a muzzle, or perhaps a harness, from the playwright-director.

Siopsis's demon-beset vacation supersalesman exhibited none of the charm success in his profession demands. ``Incested'' by his parents, and a loud-mouthed boor, it's no wonder he becomes obsessed with bulls, continually braying ``Bu-u-u-ull'' to teach his underling ``Bu-u-ull tactics.'' At last he utters what everyone expects: ``Bu-u-ull shi-i-it!''

By then the joke was doomed.

Joshua Klein, whose resemblance to Dustin Hoffman in his Graduate days astounded, gave a lovely performance as the schnooky victim of Siopsis's machinations, which recalled Glengary Glen Ross office horrors. Sporting an I.Q. of perhaps 70, and ``tired of being fired,'' Klein's character sometimes walked about as in a dream at the bottom of the sea.

Kenya DeRosa, playing the bitchy Puerto Rican Mrs. Schnook--with more of a lilt than an accent--danced the fandango, looked great in Marena Rada's super flamenco costume, and played the castanets well enough. But neither her acting, her lines, nor her character commanded much attention. One monologue, describing the death of her matador father, could have made a lovely letter to her daughter or a pathetic Show-and-Tell before a sixth grade class. But lines beginning with ``As the bull's horns gouged through my father's flesh...'' do not a credible monologue in the theatre make.

Jack Fisher played the shadowy tipster as if he were a shadow. A very noisy shadow. Or perhaps he was Mephistopheles. Or Willy Loman's brother. Whatever.

Lighting effects by Aaron Meadow attempted to reflect the play's surrealism. They were more mannered than was required.

A Tip from the Shadows to Mr. Parness: Please avoid the surreal--until they give you Maria Callas and a budget to do the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor at the Met.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Marshall Yaeger

Return to Home Page