By Byrne Harrison
Photos by Ed Krieger
The story that inspired Tom Jacobson to write The Twentieth Century Way is intriguing in and of itself. In 1914, in order to cut down on the vice of oral sodomy, the Long Beach Police Department hired two actors, Warren and Brown, to entrap and arrest men in public bathrooms, changing rooms of bathhouses, and private clubs - wherever men "given to that sort of thing" congregate. The story of the men they target and how they arrest them is interesting enough to put on stage as is.
Jacobson, however, has created an intriguing play within a play within a play that incorporates Warren and Brown's story, then transcends it. The Twentieth-Century Way begins with two actors Warren (Robert Mammana) and Brown (Will Bradley) vying for a role as a confidence man in a movie. While they wait for their auditions, the two probe and challenge each other, trying to psyche the other out in a display of alpha male one-upmanship. This leads into a challenge: using their improv skills, Warren and Brown will act out a story about two actors hired to entrap homosexuals in 1914. The first person to fail has to drop out of the audition. The two men jump from role to role - actors, police, newspaper editors, victims - telling Warren and Brown's story, and constantly daring each other to go further. As the story careens forward, taking on a life of it's own, the two actors begin to lose themselves, forcing them to finally strip off the characters, the pretense of their acting and storytelling, and fianlly be themselves.
Bradley and Mammana are spectacular in their numerous roles. Although much of the play is humorous, director Michael Michetti keeps the production charged with a certain amount of menace and eroticism. The Twentieth-Century Way is also a technically well-produced play. Garry Lennon's costumes and Nick Santiago's props are excellent - set backstage at a theatre, the actors are constantly pulling costume pieces and props from various trunks and wardrobes and incorporating them into their "improv." Lighting designer Elizabeth Harper also does a terrific job helping set the mood of the scenes.
A fascinating play, excellent cast and superior production values make The Twentieth-Century one of the best shows in Fringe NYC 2010. The Theatre @ Boston Court is to be commended for bringing this challenging and entertaining play to life.
The Twentieth-Century Way
The Theatre @ Boston Court
Writer: Tom Jacobson
Director: Michael Michetti
Properties Design: Nick Santiago
Lighting Design: Elizabeth Harper
Costume Design: Garry Lennon
Dialect Coach: Tracy Winters
Assistant Director: Sabina Ptasznik
Production Stage Manager: Meg Friedman
Casting Director: Michael Donovan, CSA
Key Art: Christopher Komuro
General Press Representative: O+M Co./Rick Maramontez, Jaron Caldwell
Featuring: Will Bradley and Robert Mammana
VENUE #10: Players Theatre
Sat 14 @ 7:30
Mon 16 @ 5:15
Wed 18 @ 8:45
Sat 21 @ 12:15
Tue 24 @ 4:15