by J.B. Priestley
Directed by Sam Yates
Starring Alan Cox

by Dan Gordon
Directed by Philip Crawford
Starring Dan Gordon and Michael Condron

Written, Rhymed and Performed by
Richard Marsh and Kate Bonna
Directed by Pia Furtado

All at 59E59

Reviewed by David Spencer

                        I’m embarrassed that time constraints have me writing about Cornelius in brief, but if you’ve seen the home page for this and the previous edition of the ‘zine, you saw how important I thought it was that you have a timely heads’ up. A revival of a “forgotten” play by J.B. Priestley, it made me happier than anything I saw in the season just past. Basically it tells the story of a long established business, a metal supplier, that has gone into a slump from which it will clearly not recover. Holding things together as the ship goes down is the title character, co-owner of the firm (splendidly played by Alan Cox), doing all he can to keep spirits afloat. Not in denial, not a font of hopeless bromides, but nonetheless a fellow with an indefatigable faith in the ability of the human sprit to cope. Somehow. The play, set in 1935, during the British depression, resonates like crazy with the precarious financial and employment crises besetting the world today, and though it’s a traditionally well-made affair, it nonetheless has a vibrant life that transcends its neatness of structure. The rest of the cast is uniformly splendid, and the perfectly-tuned direction is by Sam Yates.

                        Dan Gordon’s The Boat Factory might not be quite as glorious, but it sure comes a close second. A two-hander, it features Mr. Gordon playing his father (and a few other small roles), reminiscing opposite Michael Condron (who plays the many other roles) about his time learning the ship-building trade in the Belfast ship yards in the 1940s. Something tells you right away that by the end of the evening, you’ll be moved at the fate of its characters; but nothing prepares you for how deeply emotional even technical data can be, here. There is so much passion in the recitation of types of nails and  types of saws and their function, that what is also clearly a grinding and punishing way to make a living also attains a sense of pride and wonder, even romance, perhaps because with tools so small, a community of men can build things that are so sleek, huge and majestic. Played on a small stage equipped with several levels and two climbable scaffolding units, against a backdrop ground plan of the shipyards, The Boat Factory is one of those rare and special events in which savvily applied minimalism creates a fully populated world that can rival any widescreen historical epic. Direction is by Philip Crawford.

                        Dirty Great Love Story seems to me mostly for a younger crowd, though being part of the BoB-fest it certainly had it’s share of oldies in the audience having fun. Performed by its two authors, the perhaps-just-barely 30-something Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna, it tells the story of a one night stand that has to overcome a two year aftermath of various absurd relationship-delaying complications before it can settle into the You’re-the-One romance-for-life it cries out to be. Imagine the plot of a contemporary-film romcom performed in a black box setting (there are no props), in which two actors play all the characters; and in which both dialogue and narration are in rhymed couplets and quatrains. The rhyming-scanning-cadences package isn’t always particularly neat, taking more than a few rap-generation liberties in all departments, but if it were of Sondheim like meticulousness, it would (a) demand music and (b) possibly (in unconscious symbolism) fight its own relationships-are-messy thesis. I will say it took me a while to warm to the youthiness and inconsequentiality of the story (far longer than it took most of the audience, who glommed onto the charm of the performers immediately, but at the half mark, I was drawn into how consequential it all seemed to them, and once you make that pact, you’re hopelessly theirs. Not essential, but great fun, and directed with ideal invisibility by Pia Furtado.

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