Monday, January 28, 2013

Theatre at Arts Garage: Gloucester Blue (2 1/2 reviews)

Theater at Arts Garage opened the world premiere production of Israel Horovitz's Gloucester Blue on January 25, 2013.
The renovation of an old Gloucester, Mass. harbor house is the setting for noted playwright Israel Horovitz’ dark comedy of sex, murder, and mayhem. As two painters apply the specific “blue” selected by the lady of the house, old connections are revealed and mounting sexual tensions explode when her husband returns home and uncovers the scandals that have erupted in his absence. Accompanied by original music by Adam Horowitz (of the Beastie Boys), this comedic drama exposes the human spirit in this tale of class, deceit and romance..
Louis Tyrell directed a cast that featured Stephen G. Anthony, David Sirios, Michael St. Pierre and Andrea Conte.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Directed by Louis Tyrrell, who previously presented Horovitz’s shattering Sins of the Mother at the now-defunct Florida Stage, Gloucester Blue gets a solid, impressively-acted first production.
Set and lighting designer Stephen Placido’s budget is clearly a fraction of what the Florida Stage gang had to work with, but he effectively creates the small-scale upper level of an abandoned fish processing plant in Gloucester, Mass.
Editor's note: Stephen Placido designed sets for the first few seasons of Florida Stage, back when it was Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches and the company was literally run from Tyrell's kitchen.  The company's early success was due in no small part to Placido's contribution to the productions.
Gloucester Blue features a quartet of fine performances, particularly by Anthony and Sirois, whose characters are simply richer and more intriguing than the upper-crust types Conte and St. Pierre are playing. With his flawless accent and charismatic craftiness, Anthony creates a volatile yet irresistible stage villain in Latham.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Israel Horovitz’s Gloucester Blue, getting a gleefully mischievous world premiere at the Arts Garage, is a black comedy with all three Aristotelian verities – beer, blackmail and blood.
Tyrrell has molded the cast into a smoothly operating collection of characters that veer really close but don’t quite tumble into caricature.  He has physically cast well... Vocally, too, the two workmen deliver a consistent Massachusetts accents that sounded convincing to Floridians’ ears, plus a more refined sound for a married couple born with platinum spoons in their mouths.
The ensemble is dead solid from Sirois who invests Stumpy with an up-and-comer’s hope for something better to St. Pierre’s hapless husband inept in dealing with the real world. Conte is an experienced actress who hasn’t been cast down here frequently, but she perfectly slides into Lexi’s sense of entitlement that is so natural that it’s barely snobbery.

But Anthony is the standout as the scruffy, blunt force trauma of a human being whose native intelligence is masked by a persona of someone who drains a beer can and tosses it over his shoulder. Whether he is antagonizing Lexi or chummily putting his arm around Bummy as he threatens him, Anthony’s Latham revels in sticking it to those who laze about in a life of unearned privilege.
The intelligence and quality of this and the previous productions in Arts Garage’s short tenure should not be a surprise considering Tyrrell’s artistic pedigree for doing new and edgy works at Florida Stage. His work there with Horovitz on Sins of the Mother in 2010 encouraged the playwright to bring Tyrrell this script. With Gloucester Blue, this fledgling company under a Delray Beach parking garage cements its promise as theatrical force to watch.
Michelle F. Solomon reviewed wrote for showed up on behalf of miamiartzine:

Anthony is the guy you love to hate as Latham. With his dead on Massachusetts accent, Anthony’s Latham has layers. In fact, the depth of the actor’s portrayal is so rich that it makes the others seem overly transparent. It’s also the way Horovitz has this play built. He seems to know Stumpy and especially Latham so well, yet Bummy and Lexi are caricatures, wealthy Worth Avenue stereotypes...
Gloucester Blue is enjoyable enough with twists and turns in the plot that, while soap opera-esque in nature, are adventurous, but Gloucester Blue is oversold: the ad and playbills touting: “Sex, Murder, Mayhem & Sex.”
While the character of Lexi should turn up the heat and amp up the proceedings, Conte’s ice queen interpretation is chilling rather than thrilling. St. Pierre’s Bummy is loaded with angst but never seems truly as frightened as the dialogue calls for.

Louis Tyrrell’s direction heightens the anxiety and he’s able to keep the actors moving briskly through a small space. A few fight scenes and some murderous blows are tip top and frighteningly good.

No doubt it is difficult to perform and direct a new work. There are still nuances to be found and even some tightening of the script that could be implemented, especially in the overly long first act conversations between Stumpy and Latham and the ending that wraps up.

Applause, as always, goes to Tyrrell for taking on new challenges and adding another venue where audiences can see unusual works.
Gloucester Blue plays at the Theatre at Arts Garage through February 17, 2013.

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