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
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
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
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
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
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
discourse and the unsurprising validation of all the arguments.
— Simon Saltzman
at 14th Street, New York. $25 to $66. 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.
It’s laughter followed by tears in Lisa Loomer’s
Out," a topical and heartbreaking play about the fragile
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
(Zila Hernandez), a Salvadoran, and her employers Nancy (Kathryn
an entertainment lawyer, and her husband Richard (Joseph Urla), a
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
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
meetings of two other affluent women (Judith Hawking and Kelly
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
212-246-4422. $55. To November 2.
The key: **** Don’t miss; ***
You won’t feel cheated;
** Maybe you should have stayed home;
* Don’t blame us.
Nilo Cruz drama directed by Emily Mann. Previews begin November 4.
moves up from Off-Broadway.
Previews begin November 4.
to January 4.
Judd, Jason Patric, Ned Beatty. Previews.
Winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, best actress and
actor, and best director.
Mays in new play be Doug Wright. Previews begin November 11.
Mason revue. Previews.
Abba hit musical.
212-307-4100. Tony winner for Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel.
Kern musical. Previews begin October 28.
Ellen Burstyn. Previews begin October 31.
By Jonathan Larson.
begin October 24.
winner, best play for Richard Greenberg.
Pinter revival. Previews begin October 24.
of 12 Tonys. Pricey premium tickets: 212-563-2929.
& 46. Ticketmaster.
407 West 43.
Gurney, as seen at George Street.
43. D.*. Lawrence.
Space, 555 West 42. Bill Irwin. Extended to November 9.
at 76. New musical comedy.
directed by Darko Tresnjak.
Stars Nathan Lane.
To November 14.
— Simon Saltzman
be made through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.
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
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
and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.
Cash or Travelers Checks only; no credit cards. Visit TKTS at:
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