On A Stool at the End of the Bar

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NY Theater Review Sandi Durell

 

Now what would this title conjure up to you? Perhaps a clandestine meeting of a man and woman in a dimly lit boite and the rest is left to your imagination. Not exactly.

It does, however, have to do with a man and a woman and a chance meeting in a bar that changed many lives. When Tony’s wife died and left him with three kids to raise, he not only wanted female companionship but someone to be a surrogate mom to Joey, age 17, his sister Angie, age 16 and their young brother Mario, age 13. He got his wish, Chris or Christine McCullough, a pretty looking slim blonde who not only fell for Tony and married him, but developed a real emotional attachment to the kids, which was mutual.

All seems fine in this late 80s throwback modest suburban home (set design Jessica L. Parks) in New Jersey that they share; Tony, kissie-huggie with Christine, talking about his lumber business, Christine, a working wife, busy in the kitchen, the kids . . . doing what kids do, until one day the phone rings and Chris’ life turns upside down. The entire family’s life does somersaults as a new truth emerges.

Chris has a brother, Michael, whom she hasn’t seen in 20 years. He’s tracked her down to give her a check . . . her share of an inheritance from their now deceased parents. And he’s also dropped a bomb when he comes a-calling and Tony is at home alone. Why he thought Tony knew, all these years married to Chris, but she never told him . . . Chris/Christine is, or was, a man before he/she had surgery.

What is unleashed is an abusive, hysterical and devastated Tony unable to contain his feelings of having been deceived and lied to, calling Chris a queer, as all hell breaks loose. Needing someone to talk to, he takes his problem to the local Priest (Robert Hogan) who insinuates that maybe Tony is a homosexual, while Tony begs the Priest not to betray him while Christine is having to own up and tell the kids the truth.

“On A Stool . . .” – a production of The Directors Company, written by Robert Callely – is like a bad soap opera gone awry. Christine, played by Antoinette Thornes, is difficult to hear and understand a good deal of the time, speaking in a low voice that doesn’t resonate, nor does her character ring true. Tony, played by Timothy John Smith, gives a strong performance as the betrayed husband, but the kids singularly garner the most interest. Joey (Luke Slattery), old enough to understand, accuses his Dad of being a faggot in a confrontational scene that stings; Angie (Sara Kapner) attempts to keep peace while trying to understand and little Mario (Zachary Brod) is most appealing as a youngster thrust into an adult situation not completely comprehensible to him.

Michael (John Stanisci) plays well as the brother who just can’t comprehend the situation of having a sibling who made a sex change. And there’s a short scene between Christine and her therapist, Dr. Johns, played by Liza Vann, that could very well have been completely eliminated.

Act 2 is filled with discussions (some trite), uncertainty and confusion, as a heartbroken Tony craves someone to tell him what to do in this play about selfishness, deceit and deception, peppered with love.

I’ll let you guess how it all plays out.

The production is directed by Michael Parva and runs 1 hour, 40 minutes thru December 14th. www.59e59.org    212 279-4200

Photos: Carol Rosegg

 

 

 

 

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