Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Review – The Lady Swims Today (WBISI Productions)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

A backwater resort on the Chesapeake Bay. A shady businessman who promises quick, but not easy, money. A mysterious message, “The lady swims today.” All of these, combined with a handful of locals whose greed overwhelms their good sense and the women who threaten to ruin it all, are on display in H.G. Brown’s The Lady Swims Today at the TADA Theatre. This tight crime drama is a pleasure to watch.

The most striking feature of The Lady Swims Today is the most readily apparent, the marvelous set created by designer Joseph Spirito. It truly captures the feel of the bar of the down-on-its-luck Carney Hook Marina Motel and provides an excellent backdrop to showcase the locals: George (Gordon Silva), the bartender; Harley (Jack Rodgerson), a dockworker and wannabe piano player; and Mal (Rob Sheridan), a former contraband runner who is trying to make a respectable living running the motel with his wife, Beverly (Vivienne Leheny). George and Harley seem to fit the bar perfectly, a little worn and a bit seedy. Mal and Beverly fit in a little less; they’re the dressed up version of what the bar could be. There are also three outsiders at the motel: Joyce Stevens (Kate Udall), Beverly’s old friend, now a reporter; Alice (Kelli K. Barnett), Harley’s ‘dancer’ girlfriend; and the most out of his element, Eddie Hajazi (Robert Funaro), the midlevel hood who is looking for some payback. This payback involves piracy and could net over $2 million. But for it to work, he needs help.

The Lady Swims Today is a fun ride, slowly unfolding, unveiling complication after complication as it builds towards its conclusion. Director Stephen Sunderlin does an excellent job with the pacing, maintaining a coiled tension in most of the scenes that drives the action to a number of explosive moments, the best of which feature Eddie and Joyce, two characters who are much more alike than they’d care to admit.

The acting in this production is strong, though certain actors shine. Vivienne Leheny, in addition to being an excellent as Beverly, has a remarkable voice, clear as crystal whether in a whisper or a shout. Rob Sheridan’s Mal is a character clearly at war with himself. For his wife’s sake, he wants to keep clean, but every new day brings frustrations and setbacks. He clearly wants a moment of his old life back, even though that life also repulses him. Robert Funaro as Eddie is slick and in charge. Funaro occasionally comes across a little stiff, though he is excellent in the more dramatic moments or when interacting with the female characters. It’s clear that Eddie is a lady’s man; Funaro seems to have a great deal of fun playing with this aspect of his character.

With an engrossing story, excellent acting, and deft direction, The Lady Swims Today is an impressive thriller that is sure to entertain.

Written by H.G. Brown
Directed by Stephen Sunderlin
Scene Design: Joseph Spirito
Costume Design: Vanessa Leuck
Lighting Design: Brett Maughan
Stage Manager: Joanna Leigh Jacobsen
Assistant Stage Manager: Connie Baker
Assistant Director: Avriel Hillman
Fight Choreographer: Jim Bender
General Manager: Tom Smedes
Press Representative: Jim Randolph
Photographer: Roger Gaess
Web & Print Designer: Keith Paul

Featuring Gordon Silva (George Santos), Robert Funaro (Eddie Hajazi), Jack Rodgerson (Harley Davis), Rob Sheridan (Mal Peters), Vivienne Leheny (Beverly Sharon Peters), Kate Udall (Joyce Stevens), Kelli K. Barnett (Alice Bender)

TADA Theatre
15 W. 28th Street

Through Sunday October 21st.

For tickets visit or call 212-352-3101