Always game to experiment, John Patrick Shanley has delivered a tremendous
variety of stories, from the magical romance of the movie "Moonstruck" to
the tense stare-down of the play (and soon-to-be film) "Doubt."
He's also known for bleak but intermittently tender comedies. Three of
these are playing locally: the early-'80s "Welcome to the Moon and Other
Plays" and "Savage in Limbo" and 2001's "Where's My Money?"
The six brief plays of 1982's "Welcome to the Moon and Other Plays" are an
early-week offering by the Sacred Fools. Shanley demonstrates terrific
economy of storytelling in these tales of people who yearn to have another
person hear their deepest hopes and perhaps share -- or at least
understand -- their feelings. Director Ruth Silveira stages the pieces
with the charming simplicity of "Our Town" or "The Fantasticks," using
low-tech, plywood set pieces and few furnishings.
The tales include a sweet story about a teen (Sean Sweeney) who nervously
spills his feelings for a neighborhood girl and a touching mock western in
which a sheltered town girl (Blythe Evans) yearns for the wide-open spaces
known by a loping cowboy (Paul Byrne). The best two are tales of
contemporary Manhattan guys -- both feature Tyler Brooks and Marc Jablon,
standouts in this cast of eight -- who dare to reveal their vulnerability.
Here, as in so many of Shanley's stories, words must be spoken, actions
must be taken, before it's too late.
Daryl H. Miller
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AA year before John Patrick Shanley's Danny and the Deep Blue Sea started
turning heads, and five years before his Oscar for Moonstruck, these six
short plays about the trials of love and the courage needed to communicate
one's deepest feeling to another debuted in New York. Each takes place in
a different location, including a mermaid-stocked lake in Central Park and
indigenous bars in the Bronx and the Wild West, but all share a unifying
theme: dreams so grand they must be revealed no matter the risk.
From the woebegone, love-struck kid (Sean Sweeney) who admits his feelings
to a girl (Blythe Evans) oblivious to the panging of his heartstrings, to
the neighborhood hangout in the title play where a local hood (Sweeney)
professes his love for his lifelong goombah (Tyler Brooks), mostly
ordinary folks are forced into corners where the only solution is being
ridiculous in order to make some preposterously improbable vision come
At their dawning in 1982, this sextet might not have provided a clear
indication Shanley would one day win a Pulitzer for his remarkable Doubt,
but it wouldn't have been difficult to see that the guy was going
somewhere. Director Ruth Silveira understands this and gets out of the
way, staging the pieces with utmost simplicity, including using flimsy
cardboard set decorations put in place by stagehands (Rachele Gueli and
Aaron Francis) ready to break into a tango at a moment's notice, and
leading her eight actors to each contribute genuine, heartfelt
performances. Everyone is beautifully committed to staying on the same
page despite the widely divergent styles of the pieces, although Sweeney
-- half French Stewart and half Buster Keaton -- is particularly
endearing, and Paul Byrne's transformation from tortured Renaissance
ne'er-do-well poet to stoic cowboy to cigar-chompin' bartender is a major
asset in Silveira's quest for windmills.
As with so many first passes by writers destined for greatness, revisiting
this material is a fascinating experience, hearing the signature nuances
inherent in Shanley's voice burst forth without a shred of the inevitable
slickness that comes from success -- or the equally inescapable cynicism
ready to come along for the ride.
-- Travis Michael
© 2008 BackStage
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