Monday, October 3, 2005

Review - The Bubble (The New Cockpit Ensemble)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

If the actor’s nightmare is to be thrust onstage with no script and no idea what he’s doing, then the playwright’s nightmare must be creating characters who come to life and refuse to follow his script. Add in a predatory director, a bunch of crazy actors and more repressed family drama than you can shake a stick at and you’ll have the world that Frank J. Avella created in The Bubble.

The play follows the creative process from idea to stage. Act I begins with the Writer (Joe Pistone) working on the play that he hopes will make his career. He runs his characters through their paces, changing styles from bodice-ripper to Sopranos-knockoff to downtown performance art. Eventually the characters, led by Zoe (Wind Klaison) rebel and force the Writer to examine his vision for the work and some uncomfortable truths about himself.

Act II shows the play in rehearsal. The Writer is now called Phil as the action has moved out of his head and into the ‘real world’. His director, Fred (Guenia Lemos) is harassing the cast, the actors are caught up in their petty (and sexy) intrigues and Phil is struggling through some confusing feelings for one of his young cast members, Lawrence (Tom Patterson). And he still can’t quit tinkering with the play, much to the cast’s annoyance.

Act III is Phil’s play, a family drama that will finally allow him, now as The Phil Character, to come to terms with his perfect seeming Father (Brian Townes), his homophobic Mother (Klaison), his incestuously-minded Brother (Patterson), his feminist Sister (Marie Lazzaro), his gay Cousin Steve (Justin D. Quackenbush) and watching over them all, his wise and wizened Nonna (Lemos).

The play is clever, funny and full of references to Broadway, television and movies. Avella has an ear for dialogue and knows how to turn a nice phrase. The only drawback is the somewhat bare bones set, lighting and costumes which really don’t add anything to an otherwise good production. The actors more than made up for it, however. Each of them plays three wildly divergent characters, with the exception of Mr. Pistone, whose characters were really just variations of each other. Lemos was especially good in transforming herself from Brazilian bombshell Fernanda to sleazy director Fred and finally to wheelchair-bound Nonna.

With clever dialogue, sight gags, sex, passion, insanity, love, hate, music, dancing, drama and revelation, this show has a little something for every audience member to enjoy.

Written and Directed by Frank J. Avella
The New Cockpit Ensemble
Bank Street Theater
155 Bank Street

Closed Oct. 16, 2005