Monday, March 17, 2008

Review - Seesaw (Justin Boccitto and The Group Theatre Too)

Stage Buzz Review by Patrick Doyle

Sir Isaac Newton said for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and although he was defining physics, this same law can be applied to the everyday emotional struggles that happen in our lives. A new relationship can often throw our lives out of balance, but eventually the balance will return, whether we want it or not. Michael Bennett, Cy Coleman, and Dorothy Field’s Seesaw, presented by Justin Boccito and The Group Theater Too at The Connelly Theatre, explores just how far off balance Gittel Mosca’s (Cristina Marie) life can go before the inevitable reaction takes place.

Gittel is a street smart urban dwelling, dancer with a poor track record in relationships. She’s poor, uneducated, involved in the arts, yet fiercely independent, proud, and able to adapt to her situation. Jerry Ryan (Tim Falter) is a Midwestern lawyer, recently separated from his wife, who meets Gittle at a party. He’s educated (although na├»ve about city life), financially secure, and yet dependent on his former father in-law. He’s the exact opposite of Gittel in nearly every way, yet calls her to ask her out on a date. Can opposites really attract? Can they stay together? The audience certainly hopes so.

Bennett’s book (which was nominated for a Tony Award) is a well written look at a brief love affair. His story, set in New York City in the early 1970’s is ironically not much different than present day New York…although less expensive. His main story proves to be most interesting, yet he introduces additional characters to hold our interest, exploring sexuality, multiculturism, and gender identity issues.

The character of David (Brian Duryea), a choreographer and dancer, who happens to be a master of interior decorating, is not surprisingly the gay sidekick. However, his homosexuality is only a matter of fact, and not a source of comedy. In fact, quite the opposite, his sexuality is defended by the heroine of the show. Duryea’s comedic stereotypical portrayal however provides just the right amount of lightheartedness needed to keep the story moving towards its inevitable conclusion.

Michael Blevins choreography and direction are set to show audience members exactly how talented his cast is. From the intricate tap dancing numbers, to the grace of his leading players, the audience is given a complete tour of the talents that each of these actors hold. Of particular interest is Tim Falter’s dancing, which he makes seem effortless, often reminiscent of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. His technique is smooth and nearly fluid in movement.

The set, although sparse is ingenious in design, and utilized well. Painting opposite sides of the furniture different colors (pink and blue emphasizing balance in both storyline and production) provides multiple uses, while allowing less time between scene changes. These changes are completed quickly, with chorus members providing short dance pieces to keep the audience members entertained while set pieces are moved onto the stage.

Vangeli’s costume design provides excellent glimpses into the 1970’s with all it’s garish couture. Shimmering fabric with pant suits are back and fully help transport the audience back into the “Studio 54″ nightclub scene. Additionally Vangeli puts the chorus in “Fosse styled” black outfits, which both reveal the dancers abilities and refrain from upstaging the storyline. Balance is what is most important in this show, and the company of Seesaw provides just that. A balanced performance that leaves the audience wanting to see just a bit more.

Book by Michael Bennett
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Directed by Michael Blevins
Stage Manager: Kelly Varley
Choreographer: Michael Blevins
Costume Designer: Vangeli
Musical Director: Christine Riley
Assistant Stage Manager: Mary Ann Penzero
Accompanist: Christine Riley
Second Keyboards: Sol Bloch
Bass: Scott Thorton
Percussion: Satch Vivenzio

Featuring: Jerry Ryan (Tim Falter), Gittel Mosca (Cristina Marie), David (Brian Duryea), Sophie (Janelle Neal), Julio Gonzales (Ryan Gregorio), Sparkle (Paul Aguirre), Ethel (Crystal Chapman), Sara Andreas, Ann Ehnes, Kevin B. Johnson, Stephanie Long, Geoffrey Mergele, Emily Knox Peterson, Jennifer Sanchez, Stacey Sipowicz, Sidney Erik Wright.

The Connelly Theatre
220 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10009
Between Avenue A & B

Closed March 15