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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the May 19, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New York Review: ‘Match
’Stephen Belber’s surprise-deficient but laugh-sustained “Match” may be no match for scenery chewing star Frank Langella, but no one is likely to complain given the sheer pleasure that comes from watching this irresistible actor in action. Langella, who seems to have cornered the market on playing effete sophisticates (“Fortune’s Fool,” “Present Laughter,” “Design for Living”) plays Toby Powell, a 62 year-old former dancer and choreographer now living in sedate retirement in an abundantly decorated but inexpensive apartment in the upper reaches of Manhattan.
Toby has presumably replaced his former, and very gay, life with teaching at Juilliard and substituting sexual adventuring on an international scale with domestic knitting, in this instance a very long scarf. It is a talent that Toby is engaged in with gusto as the curtain rises. Expecting visitors, Toby scurries about setting down and then hastily replacing one stale nosh with another. Alone on stage, casually attired in shorts and sport socks, Langella fills the space (decorated in nostalgic clutter by designer James Noone) with more funnily revealing choreography than can be seen in many a current Broadway musical.
But all good things come to and end, and so Toby graciously opens the door for his two visitors. Lisa (Jane Adams) is a slender hyperinquisitive graduate student ostensibly there to interview Toby for her dissertation on the history of dance and choreography in America and its role in the future of the arts. Accompanying her is Mike (Ray Liotta), her humorless husband, whose hostility toward Toby is barely repressed from the outset. He is along to presumably and implausibly to keep her tape recorder functioning. The clueless Toby is loquacious to a fault and liberally pours out on his views about dance, art, and culture. But he is even more eager to digress and share about 40 years worth of his more often than not amoral sexual encounters from Maine to Cuba.
Dominating the greater portion of Act 1, Langella delivers what could be described as a virtuosic, if irrefutably campy, monologue. This as he delightfully empowers playwright Belber’s wittily prescribed dialogue and dominates what is surely becoming an increasingly testy situation. The provocation comes from Mike, who begins to sound more menacing and aggressive with his insults.
Film star Liotta, who is making his Broadway debut, begins to show his mettle as an actor in tempered degrees as his agenda takes on an ominous and more deliberate tone. What kind of cat and mouse game is suddenly going on between the notable, admittedly, flagrantly bi-sexual Toby and the virulently homophobic Mike? And is there subterfuge behind the interview? And why does Mike seem particularly interested in a specific affair that Toby had with a woman many years ago?
For most of Act 1, “Match” endears itself as has a dandy little comedy mystery buoyed by Lisa’s veiled anxieties, Mike’s crude inferences, and Toby’s dramatic denials about the possibility of Mike being his son. Adams, has little to do but play referee in Act 1, but the Tony award-winning actor (“An Inspector Calls”), last seen on Broadway in “Enchanted April,” edgily juggles her feelings for Mike and her fascination with Toby. While Mike is off to the DNA lab with a sample, Act II gets a little spongy at the core as Lisa and Toby await his return. Their polite relationship takes a detour as Toby attempts to comfort the stiff Lisa, whose marriage, she admits, is of late devoid of sex.
Toby’s suggestion to Lisa that she might loosen up if he gave her a dancing lesson, or better yet performed cunnilingus on her to ease her rigidity, seems a bit far-fetched. Up to this point, Nicholas Martin’s actor-friendly direction is impeccable, but even he has a hard time keeping the play’s foreshadowed denouement from decomposing. While it comes as a relief to see the glib superficial Toby turn into a sentimental old fool, Mike turn into a remorseful cry baby, and Lisa turn lovingly back to Mike, we are still left with less than what might have been accomplished with more dramatic invention.
Match, Plymouth Theater, 236 West 45th Street. For tickets call 212- 239-6200.
New Jersey Theater Alliance announces auditions for both Equity and Non-Equity performers in August by appointment only. To enter the lottery, send one 8×10 headshot with attached resume and a copy of your Equity card (if you have one). Indicate if you are a New Jersey resident or have access to New Jersey housing and whether you intend to sing as part of your audition. Send a self-addressed stamped business-sized envelope. Mail to New Jersey Theater Alliance, 163 Madison Avenue, Suite 500, Morristown, NJ 07960, postmarked by Friday, June 25.
Like 40 Productions seeks actors 18 and over for “Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill.” Auditions are Saturday and Sunday, July 10 and 11, Noon to 3 p.m. at Kelsey Theater. Performance dates are weekends, September 17 to 26. Call director Dan Spalutto at 609-584-7718 for appointment.
Call for Entries
New Hope Outdoor Arts & Crafts Festival is accepting applications for their October show. Seeking artists of watercolors, oils. pastels, acrylics, and crafts including jewelry, ceramics, metal work, stained glass, fabric art, and photography. Deadline is June 15. Call 215-598-3301 for application.
Jewish Community Center of Delaware Valley invites basketball teams to play either on Tuesday or Thursday evenings from June 15 to mid-August. Fees are $450 per team. Deadline is May 31. They are also offering tennis lessons at the between June 28 and August 22 for all skill levels. The fee is $112 for eight sessions. Call Jeff at 609-883-9550 or register at www.jcctoday.org.
Storytelling Arts offers a summer institute for teachers in the art of storytelling.The non-residential program runs Monday to Friday, June 28 to July 2, $600. The residential program runs Sunday to Friday, July 11 to 16, $650. Scholarships are available with preference to New Jersey educators. Call Susan Danoff at 609-430-1922, E-mail email@example.com, or visit www.storytellingarts.net for more information and application.
Great Clips offers free hair cuts to those who donate 10 inches of hair to benefit Locks of Love, the non-profit organization that creates hairpieces for children who have experienced a total loss of scalp hair. Hair must be in good condition and free from chemical processing. Call 609-750-1777 for appointment in either Nassau Park or Hamilton Marketplace.
Like 40 Productions seeks old bar items including neon signs, and old hardcover books (including old encyclopedia sets) for future productions. Call Dan Spalutto at 609-584-7718 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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