By Myra Chanin
One of the greatest things about New York City is that it gives artists the opportunity to change, alter and modify. And that is exactly what happened to Dan Manjovi, a talented composer (with songs in Woody Allen films), musician and cabaret performer, who has just popped up as the author of Picked Up, a tension-packed 90-minute, two-character drama, a highlight of 2019’s highly-curated Broadway Bound Theater Festival—which positions playwrights and works for a professional run.
The drama, about a chance meeting between two men in a New York City gay bar, turns into a strange, seductive game of cat and mouse. The two men are three years apart in age. They grew up near each other in Brooklyn. Man #1 (Joseph J. Parks) still lives in Brooklyn. He’s uneducated, unemployed and the caretaker of his aged, dementia-stricken mother. Man #2 (Galen Murphy Hoffman) is educated and works as an Arts Administrator. He now lives in Harlem with his husband who is flying out of town on business that evening, giving Man #2 the space to go out on the town on monkey business and hook up with someone else.
As a result of their conversation, Man #2 believes their meeting may uncover truths about their mutual past involvement in a violent altercation that changed the course of his life. Man #1 insists he does not remember and did not take part in the event.
The dialog is crisp, funny and flawless. The tension produced is exquisite. The audience was rapt throughout the show. Parks and Hoffman’s performances are perfect, as was Christopher Scott’s masterful direction. You really feel you’re in the room with two real people who are at odds with each other about something that happened in the past.
Picked Up was inspired by real events in Mr. Manjovi’s life, and top stories and news events, which are close to the playwright’s heart. “While dealing with the lingering effects of my own trauma, the 2006 hate-crime case of Michael Sandy in Brooklyn popped into my head. Upon further research, I tracked down and interviewed the jury foreman of that trial, and his girlfriend, at his apartment in Brooklyn. The conversation touched off very powerful feelings within me. The above, combined with last summer’s explosive Brett Kavanaugh hearings—seeing two people remember the same event completely differently—were the motivations for the play.”
Whose memory is correct? Pick up on Picked Up and decide for yourself.
Picked Up. One last performance remains: Tonight, August 20, 2019 5 pm at The Lion Theater at Theatre Row Theatres (410 West 42nd Street, between Ninth Avenue and Dyer). www.theatrerow.org
Photos: Emily Hewitt