Reviewed by Joe Regan Jr.
January 25, 2014
The world premier of “Private Disclosures” by J. B. Heaps is taking place at the Bridge Theatre, a small bandbox performance space in mid-town Manhattan. It may be a small scale production, with two of the three actors doubling in multiple parts but you won’t find a more literate, funny and fascinating play on or off Broadway at this time.
The play takes place in New York City in the 1960’s and is obviously inspired by events in the later life of Truman Capote at the time of the notorious Cote Basque publication. The central character, Preston Sherwood, a gossip columnist for a New York tabloid, is preparing for his birthday party and also avoiding the publisher who is demanding a long past deadline manuscript of a roman a clef about the sexual activities of Park Avenue socialites. With the help of his assistant-telephone receptionist, he fends off threatening calls from creditors and angry friends.
There have been only two great loves in Sherwood’s life, Eve, his late beautiful mother whose portrait hangs on the wall, and his foul mouthed parrot. (I should mention here that the sound cues of the telephone rings, telephone hang-ups, and foul parrot language, are technically perfect.) In the midst of his frenzy, he receives a threatening anonymous call on his private line (the phone number that was only known to his deceased mother). The trench coated stranger demands that he destroy his manuscript, withdraw it from his publisher or there will be serious consequences. Sherwood makes the mistake of saying that the manuscript is not with the publisher, but is in his apartment. What happens next is devastating.
Einar Gunn gives a non-stop bravura performance as Sherwood, at times cynical, lying, dominating, obsessed with the power of his typewriter, as he races through the preparation for his exclusive celebrity, by invitation only, birthday party. In the last scene, when he returns to his vandalized apartment, he reveals an emotional depth we haven’t seen before over what has happened to his mother’s portrait and his parrot. However, in the last moment of the play there is a surprise twist which bodes for an optimistic future.
The other two actors who play multiple parts are as professional as Gunn. Jamie Heinlein does yeoman work as the assistant, telephone operator, and as a humiliated aunt. At one point she delivers a telephone message from Capote that is brilliant. Robert K. Benson also ably plays a delivery man and the very sinister caller. It’s only because we know there are only three actors in the production (and Heinlein switches costumes on stage) that we realize the doubling.
The short play (about 50 minutes) is directed to perfection by Stephen Jobes with wonderful minimal set design by Rudy Jaimes, lighting design by Emma Schimminger, and appropriate costumes by Benjamin Stange.
J. B. Heaps is a playwright to watch. As a child actor he was in Peter Brooks’ “Lord of the Flies.” In the meantime, treat yourself to a surprisingly brilliant work.
“Private Disclosures” continues until February 2 at The Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios, 244 West 54th Street, 12th Floor . Performances are Tuesday, January 28 thru Saturday, February 1 at 7 PM and on Sunday, February 2 at 2 PM. Contact www.privatedisclosures.com to order tickets.