AISLE SAY Philadelphia


by Bruce Graham
Directed by Harriet Power
Act II Playhouse, 56 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, PA 19002
Through March 28, 2010
Box Office: (215) 654-0200

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Well, Playwright, Bruce Graham has done it again - knocked another one out of the park. His new black comedy, Any Given Monday now premiering at Act II Playhouse which sounds like it's about football, is about anything but. It's about love, betrayal, friendship, power, God and the eternal questions. Mr. Graham has created four characters and drawn them so well that we know exactly what to expect from them. But then, he cleverly has them do the unexpected. So, not only is this two hour play hysterically funny, but its plot keeps unraveling as it ponders the mysteries of life and death.

In a nutshell it's about Lenny, an English teacher, his wife Risa, an events planner, their daughter, Sarah, an undergraduate philosophy major and Uncle Mickey, a subway worker. These four people become locked in an eternal embrace from which there appears to be no escape. At various times throughout the play Sarah serves as the narrator, speaking directly to the audience. Risa too, talks to the audience. However, her monologues are directed to a specific person and are so cleverly crafted, that Mr. Graham tricks us more than once into thinking we know exactly what she is talking about. I can't tell you anything more about the plot because that would give away the fun, the surprise, and the "aha!" moments.

It is so rare to go to a new play and see such perfect writing! There is not a scene nor a paragraph nor an exclamation point that needs the blue pencil. And when a great craftsman not only makes you laugh but takes your brain on an interesting ride - well if that ain't great theater, what is?

Pete Pryor, in the most flambuoyant role of Uncle Mickey is completely gripping. We love him for his down to earth grittiness and laugh at his simplicity. Yet at the same time, we hate him for his utter cynicism with the world. Genevieve Perrier hits all the right notes as the wide eyed Sarah, who thinks she has all the answers, as young people usually do. And thoughCatharine Slusar does well as the classy, snobby wife, I would have liked to see her be more shaken by the unexpected turn of events in her life. Bruce Graham is perfectly cast as the nebishy, introspective husband who has led his life by the golden rules of reason and moderation. But even though he's the "quiet man" who controls his anger and frustration - we as the audience still want to see more of what is going on inside. I think Mr. Graham has done himself a disservice by putting himself in his own play. It is so much harder to be a good writer than it is to be a good actor. Actors are interpreters of an author's words. Writers are creators of those words and therefore in my book and usually in the world of the theater - the writer is god and actors are merely angels - messengers who spread those words before the eager public. I'm sure that this play will have another incarnation and when that day comes Mr. Graham should just sit in the middle of the audience and listen to the laughter, the applause and the "aha!" moments that keeps this wonderful play of his jogging along.

Speaking of jogging along, I'm sure the pacing of this production is due in no small part to the subtle and expert direction by Harriet Power. Of course this play will be done again and most probably in a bigger venue. But why wait until it goes to Off-Broadway or Broadway of becomes a blockbuster movie for that matter? Be in the vanguard. See it now at Act II!

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