Saturday, October 03, 2009

I’m Just A Gigolo: Ronan Noone’s New Play: Little Black Dress

I’m Just A Gigolo: Ronan Noone’s New Play: Little Black Dress

Directed by Ari Edelson

Boston Playwright’s Theatre

Oct 1 to 25

Review by Doug Holder

Every now and then I make my way back to my old stomping grounds of Boston University to review a play at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. I attended Boston University from 1973 to 1975, and I am always surprised how much it has expanded and changed. On this evening I was to review Ronan Noone’s new play “Little Black Dress,” for The Somerville News. After shaking hands with Kate Snodgrass, the Artistic Director of the Theatre, my wife and I took our seats. The stage was already set with two actors portraying a scene of silent, bored domesticity in a sort of white trash abode.

I’ve heard a lot about Noone’s work. My brother Donald Holder, a Tony Award- winning lighting designer, and his wife Evan Yionoulis a professor and Director at Yale Drama, always like to talk shop, so I keep my ear alert for interesting fodder from the stage as well as the page. I have heard a lot about the playwright Noone, a 39-year-old young lion of the theatre.

The play concerns a couple of adolescents in a startup Gigolo business that serves a client base of long-in-the-tooth, frustrated housewives. Alex Pollack, along with Karl Baker Olson play the nascent Gigolos. Pollack’s portrayal of this reluctant, sorry and hurting sex worker is beautifully conceived. Marianna Bassham plays a self-deluded, long-suffering wife to a three sheets to the wind husband and mother of one of these naughty boys.

Throughout the play Henry David Thoreau’s oft used quote “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation” is liberally evoked. I don’t think the desperation here is quiet, with the father (played by veteran stage actor Jeremiah Kissel) an Adonis of spontaneous combustion, and the mother caught up in an all-encompassing fantasy world of Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Rock Hudson, and ah yes, romance. Every one of these characters are in search of, or in mourning for an identity.

Now the actor Jeremiah Kissel is a contemporary of mine, and I have seen him play characters in a walk-up, cramped theatre (boy did I love the old Lyric Stage!) on Beacon Hill, to many other venues over time. I have always been impressed with his range. He can play a working-class lout as in this play, or a dandy in a drawing room with an upturned snout. Man, this cat can act!

Again Alex Pollack is a young actor to watch. His role as a sexually conflicted, video gaming freak, and reluctant American Gigolo, is tragic and hilarious. Amy, the mother, played by Marianna Bassham, is wonderfully done, with a mixture of camp, vamp, and tragedy. My wife, who I drag along to many of these events, left with her two thumbs—up. Folks- you would be well served to see this black comedy—it will leave you unsure whether to laugh or cry.

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