A family hides its secrets and feelings from each other with deeply emotional results
By Joel Benjamin
The title character of Edla Cusick’s play Austin, Austin Cassidy is a drug rehab survivor who returns to “normal” life only to be greeted by a present that painfully surprises him and a past that bites him on the ass. As portrayed by Thomas G. Waites at the Lion Theater at Theater Row, Austin is tough, tender and very flawed. It is a virtuoso performance that keeps the entire show afloat.
At curtain, Austin is returning to his old apartment occupied by his ex-wife, Petra (Rochelle Bostrom), who does not want to see him, and his daughter, Dory (Michaela Waites, Thomas G’s real life daughter!), who was told by Petra that her dad had died. So it is an unpleasant shock to all concerned when Austin appears.
He goes off to live in his well-off brother Martin’s (James McCaffrey) brownstone in Hell’s Kitchen where he contents himself with puttering around the garden, using skills he learned at the rehab from the hunky gardener/life coach, Andy (AJ Cedeño).
We find out a lot about how Austin did himself out of his family fortune with his addiction and his limited grasp on reality. This cast of five creates a microcosmic look at a family in turmoil, a family that hides its real feelings and sins from each other.
Deceit is in the air, beginning with Petra’s terrible lie to Dory. Each character has secrets: Martin has been cuckolding Austin and Austin has been unfaithful to Petra (if one can be unfaithful to an ex). Dory, considered by Austin to be an innocent, is far from that. And Andy…well, Andy’s story is the twist in the story that animates the plot, taking it to its happy ending…that is, until the author, Ms. Cusick, pulls the rug out from under everyone.
All the performances are robust and very New York. Ms. Bostrom is properly proper and unamused by Austin while Ms. Waites is convincingly flirtatious, if not downright slutty, yet winning and quite lovely to look at. As Martin, Mr. McCaffrey doesn’t quite come off, physically, as Austin’s brother, but carries the weighty emotions of his character well. Mr. Cedeño, is a breath of fresh air, playing the much adored outsider to the Cassidy clan.
Tsubasa Kamei’s kind of realistic sets could use some spiffing up, but her lighting made the tiny stage seem larger. Kate Clifford’s costumes, ranging from tight outfits for Dory to Martin’s show-offy suits were period and character perfect.
Ed Setrakian directed, working hard to avoid melodrama and overacting. He succeeded admirably.
Austin (through September 10, 2016)
The Lion Theater/Theater Row Theater
410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues New York, NY
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit www.www.telecharge.com
For more information, visit www.AustinThePlay.com
Photos: Carol Rosegg