Very long title. Very long evening of theatre that doesn’t go very far. Capitalism. Socialism. Gay prostitution. Pay for sex jollies. Pregnant lesbian. Impregnated by brother of girlfriend. Assisted suicide. Dividing the estate. Welcome to the world of Tony Kushner and his “the Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a key to the scriptures at The Public Theatre.
It takes about four hours to see how Gus Marcantonio (Michael Cristofer) wants to live out the rest of his life or end it after retiring early as a longshoreman where he was a union leader.
Gus gathers his brooding brood around the dinner table of his Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn town house to tell them that he is selling it and that he wants to die with the assistance of an old friend Shelle (Molly Price) in what is the most harrowing scene in the play – a description of how to commit suicide the easy way with a good friend watching.
His children are as follows. And what kind of person would give names like these: Pill, his older son (Stephen Spinella) a gay teacher married to Paul (K. Todd Freeman) a man of color, Empty, his daughter (Linda Emond) who is now partnered with Maeve (Danielle Skraastad) and was previously married to Adam (Matt Servitto) a lawyer who resides in the basement taking care of Gus’s real estate holdings and taxes and finally the youngest son V (Steven Pasquale) who is married wife Sooze (Hettienne Park). Two more characters – Eli (Michael Esper) a hustler that Pill is in love with and has wasted the money that his sister was saving to pay for Eli’s services – at $300.00 an hour. And last but not least the sister of Gus, Clio (Brenda Wehle) who has sense enough to get out this play before it finally ends.
One mention of a mother figure who died birthing V. Lots of mention about Marx and communism and socialism that drags on and on into the long night. There is a small suitcase discovered within a wall when V knocks a hole through it in a fit of anger – that no one opens until the third act of this cross pollinated play – a cross between Chekhov and Arthur Miller.
The family has to vote on whether or not their father, apparently suffering from Alzheimer’s, will sell the home or not and live or not. They argue incessantly – the dialogue overlapping like some sort of octet from an opera but without a beautiful melody to accompany them. In fact this ailing and forgetful man is robust and wise enough to still translate from the Latin and to deal with all that happens in a very coherent manner. So I didn’t buy the Alzheimer’s ailment or his argument for dying – that he is feeling useless and that he has no important role in life. So what’s all this fuss over? He’s still in charge.
In charge of directing this difficult piece is Michael Grief who does an excellent job of keeping things moving as quickly and as pain free as possible.
There is some nice jazz music between scenes by Michael Friedman. If the CD becomes available that would be a nice and sufficient souvenir of this overlong, overstated, over thematic play.
www.publictheater.org Photo: Joan Marcus
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