Review: `Living Out’

On Broadway

Off-Broadway

Corrections or additions?

These reviews by Simon Saltzman were prepared for the October 22,

2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

In New York: `Omnium Gatherum’

You know how difficult it is to plan a dinner party

where the guests are compatible and the food incomparable. Consider

this: a dinner party, thrown by a world-renowned caterer and wealthy

hostess whose guests are each, save one, significant for their

opposing

social, political, and ethical views.

In "Omnium Gatherum" (the title comes from the Latin meaning

miscellaneous collections), a tasty and scrappy play co-authored by

Theresa Rebeck and Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, a parade of

elaborately

served dishes — Columbia River Salmon, Moroccan Spiced Lamb, and

Anjou Pear Salad — serve as the mouth-watering conduit for stomach

churning conversation. Although this fare could easily bring on acid

reflux and worse for the guests, for the audience it provides a feast

of flavorful and inflammatory talk.

The eerily surreal setting by designer David Rockwell, an extra-long,

elegantly set dinner table (think of the Last Supper with china and

crystal) suggests an upscale purgatory. Here the red and white wine

flows, courses appear with appropriate flourish, and people talk.

It doesn’t take long for the small talk to segue to more volatile

issues such as feminism, lesbianism, capitalism, terrorism, the Middle

East, and Star Trek. Gradually, amid the occasionally intrusive roar

of helicopters and ominous rumblings from the earth, eight

irresistibly

incompatible people deliver their increasingly incendiary opinions,

rebuttals, objections, and observations on just about every world,

local, and personal issue.

The hostess is Susie (Kristine Nielsen), an almost flaky take-charge

cross between Martha Stewart and Pearl Mesta, whose intention it is

to provide a most elegant meal and encourage lively debate. Despite

her inability to remain neutral, control tempers, and maintain a

semblance

of decorum, she presses on with determination.

The diners are a stimulating group, and the playwrights’ mission is

to give each guest and their respective point of view a fair shake.

This goal is as admirable as it is unsettling. The delight of the

play is that it aggressively avoids the form of a polemic, but instead

keeps the conversation brisk, brittle, and even unnerving, without

taking sides. The action, under the demonstrative direction of Will

Frears, is a constant flow of the unexpected and the unlikely.

Among those most unlikely to come to a meeting of the minds are Roger

(Phillip Clark), a crass ultra conservative novelist; Julia (Melanna

Gray), the only black woman, a defender of peace and her own image;

Terence (Dean Nolen), an erudite but sneering and boozing English

Christopher Hitchens-like analyst; Lydia (Jenny Bacon), a staunch

feminist, advocate for victim’s rights, and vegan; Khalid (Edward

A. Hajj), an Arab-American scholar adamant and outspoken on America’s

misguided involvement in the Middle East; and Jeff (Joseph Lyle

Taylor),

a likable firefighter and hero of 9/11, notably out of his element.

The plot, what little there is, gets its charge from the heated but

no-win exchanges between the vividly-drawn, complex, and blissfully

self-righteous characters. My personal favorite is the diplomatic

and ultimately disarming Susie who remains valiant and airily upbeat

throughout the chaos.

A late arrival, Mohammed (Amir Arison), is Susie’s surprise guest

who instigates an unsettling denouement. The dialogue is often quite

funny and bright despite the doomsday gloom that tends to float over

the disorderly proceedings. (Kudos to the lighting designed by Jules

Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and sound effects by Vincent Olivieri.)

In the provocative "Omnium Gatherum," the lines are as blurred

between heaven and earth, life and death, as they are between

discordant

discourse and the unsurprising validation of all the arguments.

***

— Simon Saltzman

Omnium Gatherum, Variety Arts Theater, 110 Third Avenue

at 14th Street, New York. $25 to $66. 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

Top Of Page
Review: `Living Out’

It’s laughter followed by tears in Lisa Loomer’s

"Living

Out," a topical and heartbreaking play about the fragile

relationships

that begin, grow, and end between upscale Anglos and the Latinos they

hire as infant care-givers and housekeepers. It is set in Los Angeles,

where the hiring of Latino immigrants, with or without a green card,

is the most economical and practical way for couples to continue their

careers and upwardly mobile lives. The play revolves around Ana

Hernandez

(Zila Hernandez), a Salvadoran, and her employers Nancy (Kathryn

Meisle),

an entertainment lawyer, and her husband Richard (Joseph Urla), a

public defender.

Because it is considered an obstacle to employment to have children

of your own that might need attention, Ana hides the fact that she

is a mother with two sons, an 11-year-old living with her grandmother

in San Salvador and an asthmatic 6-year-old living with her and loving

macho husband (Gary Perez), a day worker.

Under Jo Bonney’s intricate direction, scenes shift fluidly (the work

of Neil Patel) between Ana’s employers’ home in Santa Monica and Ana

and her husband’s home in East L.A. While the bond between Ana and

Nancy is strengthened by Nancy’s willingness to speed up the

immigration

papers for Ana’s son, it is also strained by Nancy’s extended business

trips, and Ana’s closeness to the infant in her care, not to mention

Nancy’s lonesome husband.

An amusing balance and juxtaposing of Anglo and Latino attitudes are

conveyed by the hilariously scripted and similarly framed, but

separate,

meetings of two other affluent women (Judith Hawking and Kelly

Coffield

Park), acquaintances of Nancy, and their respective Latino nannies

(Liza Colon-Zayas and Maria Elena Ramirez). Perhaps the acting is

so uniformly splendid because all the characters are so wittily drawn

and effectively stereotypical. In particular, they all personify real

human beings, each illustrative of his or her underlying dependency,

misgivings, and mistrust of the other.

Ultimately it is the inability of Ana to be with her own son in a

time of need that creates a major rift between her and Nancy. We are

ultimately given an insightful view of those who assume and expect

priority over those who may deserve it, but have none.

***

— Simon Saltzman

Living Out, Second Stage, 307 West 43rd Street, New York,

212-246-4422. $55. To November 2.

Top Of Page
On Broadway

The key: **** Don’t miss; ***

You won’t feel cheated;

** Maybe you should have stayed home;

* Don’t blame us.

Aida * Palace, Broadway & 47,

212-307-4747.

Anna in the Tropics, Royale, 242 West 45. From McCarter,

Nilo Cruz drama directed by Emily Mann. Previews begin November 4.

Avenue Q **** Golden, 252 West 45. New

musical

moves up from Off-Broadway.

Beauty and the Beast, Lunt-Fontanne, Broadway & 46.

Ticketmaster.

Bobbi Boland, Cort, 138 West 48. Farrah Fawcett stars.

Previews begin November 4.

Cabaret *** Studio 54, 254 West 54.

Extended

to January 4.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Music Box, 239 West 45. Ashley

Judd, Jason Patric, Ned Beatty. Previews.

Chicago **** Ambassador, 219 West 49.

42nd Street **** Ford Center, 213 West

42.

Golda’s Balcony, Helen Hayes, 240 West 44. Tovah Feldshuh.

Gypsy ** Shubert, 225 West 44.

Bernadette Peters.

Hairspray *** Neil Simon, 250 West 52.

Ticketmaster.

Winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, best actress and

actor, and best director.

Henry IV, Vivian Beaumont, 150 West 65. Previews begin

October 28.

I Am My Own Wife, Lyceum Theater, 149 West 45. Jefferson

Mays in new play be Doug Wright. Previews begin November 11.

Laughing Room Only, Brooks Atkinson, 256 West 47. Jackie

Mason revue. Previews.

Little Shop of Horrors, Virginia, 245 West 52.

Mama Mia! *** Winter Garden, 1634

Broadway. The

Abba hit musical.

Movin’ Out *** Richard Rodgers, 226

West 46,

212-307-4100. Tony winner for Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel.

Never Gonna Dance, Broadhurst, 235 West 44. New Jerome

Kern musical. Previews begin October 28.

Nine ***, Eugene O’Neill, 230 West 49.

Tony winner.

Oldest Living Confederate Widow, Longacre, 220 West 48.

Ellen Burstyn. Previews begin October 31.

Rent **** Nederlander, 208 West 41.

Ticketmaster.

By Jonathan Larson.

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Belasco, 111 West 44.

Previews.

Taboo, Plymouth, 236 West 45. Stars Boy George. Previews

begin October 24.

Take Me Out **** Walter Kerr, 219 West 48.

Tony

winner, best play for Richard Greenberg.

The Boy From Oz, Imperial, 249 West 45. Hugh Jackman.

The Caretaker, American Airlines, 227 West 42. Harold

Pinter revival. Previews begin October 24.

The Lion King **** New Amsterdam,

Broadway &

42, 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera *** Majestic,

247 West

44.

The Producers **** St. James, 246 West

44. Winner

of 12 Tonys. Pricey premium tickets: 212-563-2929.

The Retreat from Moscow, Booth, 222 West 45. Previews.

The Violet Hour, Biltmore, 261 West 47. By Richard

Greenberg.

Previews.

Thoroughly Modern Millie ** Marquis,

Broadway

& 46. Ticketmaster.

Urinetown *** Henry Miller, 124 West 43.

Wicked, Gershwin, 222 West 51. Ticketmaster. Previews.

Wonderful Town, Al Hirschfeld, 302 West 45. Previews begin

November 5.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

A Rooster in the Henhouse, Lion, 410 West 42. To October

25.

A Stoop on Orchard Street, Mazer, 197 East Broadway,

866-468-7619.

Beckett/Albee, Century, 111 East 15. Marian Seldes and

Brian Murray.

Beyond Recognition, Abingdon, 312 West 36. Preview.

Blue Man Group **** Astor Place, 434

Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

Carnival Knowledge ** SoHo Playhouse, 15

Vandam.

De La Guarda * Daryl Roth, 20 Union

Square East.

Extended.

Fame, Little Shubert, 442 West 42.

Forbidden Broadway, Douglas Fairbanks, 432 West 42.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

**, Westside,

407 West 43.

Iron, Manhattan Theater Club, 131 West 55. Previews.

Listen to My Heart, Studio 54, 254 West 54. Songs of David

Friedman. Previews.

Living Out *** Second Stage, 307 West 43.

Lypsinka!, Minetta Lane, 18 Minetta Lane, 212-420-8000.

Menopause, the Musical, Playhouse 91, 316 East 91,

212-831-2000.

Nobody Don’t Like Yogi, Lamb’s, 130 West 44. With Ben

Gazzara. Previews.

Stomp **** Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8.

Ticketmaster.

Strictly Academic, Primary Stages, 354 West 45. By A.R.

Gurney, as seen at George Street.

The Colleen Bawn, Irish Rep. 132 West 22. To November

30.

The Daughter-in-Law *** Mint Theater,

311 West

43. D.*. Lawrence.

The Exonerated, 45 Bleeker. Ticketmaster. 2003 Drama

Desk Award.

The Harlequin Studies. Signature Theater at Peter Norton

Space, 555 West 42. Bill Irwin. Extended to November 9.

The Night Heron, Atlantic, 336 West 20.

The Thing About Men ** Promenade, 2162

Broadway

at 76. New musical comedy.

The Two Noble Kinsmen, Public, 425 Lafayette. Shakespeare

directed by Darko Tresnjak.

Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding *** St. Luke’s

Church, 308

West 46.

Trumbo, Westside, 407 West 43. "Red, White &

Blacklisted."

Stars Nathan Lane.

Wilder, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42. New musical.

To November 14.

— Simon Saltzman

Ticket Numbers

Unless noted, all Broadway and Off-Broadway reservations can

be made through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

Other ticket outlets: Ticket Central, 212-279-4200;

Ticketmaster,

800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS

same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47) is open daily,

3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for

Wednesday

and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.

Cash or Travelers Checks only; no credit cards. Visit TKTS at:

www.tdf.org.


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