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This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the January 29, 2003 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Review: George Street `Double Play’

George Street Playhouse is hosting two plays by world-famous,

widely produced, award-winning playwrights on the same stage, on the

same evening, with the same two great actors, both Tony award winners.

The two one-act comedies, "The 75th" and "The Vibrator,"

run through February 9, under the rubric "Double Play."

Each in its own way treats the theme of a man and a woman needing

one another in what we euphemistically call "later life."

The superb actors are Elizabeth Wilson and Tom Aldredge.

"The 75th" is by Israel Horovitz, author of nearly 50 plays

including "The Indian Wants the Bronx," "James Dean,"

and "Park Your Car in Harvard Yard." Horovitz’s funny and

gently touching play, set in a small, private hotel dining room, is

about a 75th high school reunion at which the last two surviving members

of the class can’t recall each other’s names or even remember ever

having met. The play is a small gem.

"The 75th" features Wilson and Aldredge as Amy and Arthur.

Amy is spry at 93; he’s doddering. Both are white-haired, wear glasses,

and bear the humps of osteoporosis. He wears an impeccably pressed

gray suit, necktie tucked into his pants to avoid spills. She wears

a loose, shapeless black print dress and long loose black jacket.

She’s a sweet old lady, always smiling; he’s more feeble, unsteady

on his feet. The two reminisce about classmates and their lives. They

are utterly believable, the timing is impeccable; their lines provoke

a laugh a minute.

For a one-act to accompany "The 75th," George Street turned

to Arthur Laurents whose "Jolson Sings Again" and "Claudia

Lazlo" it has previously produced. A playwright, director, screenwriter,

and winner of two Tony Awards, Laurents is well known for his texts

for musicals "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," and the

play "Home of the Brave."

George Street artistic director David Saint, who directs both acts

of "Double Play," had wanted for years to bring Wilson and

Aldredge to George Street. And Laurents wrote "The Vibrator"

especially for them. The two actors had worked together before in

"Sticks and Bones" and nearly 25 years ago in the world premiere

of "The 75th" at the Public Theater. Both wanted to revisit

"The 75th."

Between the two plays these two actors lose 20 years. (Ah, stagecraft!)

The contrast is remarkable.

In "The Vibrator," Wilson and Aldredge play Phoebe and Harvey,

a retired, happily married couple in their 70s. Both show a vitality

you wouldn’t think possible. Therein lies the joy of the evening,

seeing these two great actors miraculously transformed in their roles.

Here having its world premiere, "The Vibrator," is all about

sex. The retired couple have moved from New Jersey to a gated community

in South Florida to get away from their children, who think they are

having too much sex. Harvey is content to garden year-around on his

penis-shaped flowers, but his wife calls the new place "death

row with humidity." She is afraid of becoming like South Florida’s

other retirees, a place where the "absence of sex is matched by

absence of joy."

The set is a Florida house, flooded with light from

a large skylight and windows. Phoebe, in a flowing, rose-striped dress,

pink jacket, and blonde wig is full of life. As the play opens she

is on the phone with a real estate agent: she is planning to sell

the house. Harvey, with dark, graying hair, wearing gray sweats, a

T-shirt soaked with sweat, returns from jogging. He doesn’t want to

sell.

There is much talk of gardens and phallic plants, some of it very

funny; some too much. Harvey has found a vibrator in the street while

jogging and tossed it in the bushes. It’s a good sign. Sex lives.

In the course of the play Harvey discovers how much he needs Phoebe

and says he would do anything to make her happy. He takes a telephone

call from the real estate agent but does not turn her away. His objections

have vanished. Too quickly? Laurents lauds this as the style of high

comedy, "the ability to turn on a dime with the emotional reality

present." The sound is the doorbell: not the vibrator. Phoebe

has won, vibrator notwithstanding. The real estate agent is bringing

people to look at the house. Phoebe, about to open the door, lifts

her skirts to Harvey in a sexy gesture.

From casual, amusing conversation, the dialogue of "The 75th"

segues, at its close, into an unspoken but clearly understood (by

both characters and audience) sense of shortly approaching mortality.

The slighter theme of "The Vibrator" is sex. To have and to

have not.

In both plays, Wilson and Aldredge give bravura performances that

are a delight to watch. Wilson has acted for 50 years on stage, on

Broadway and off, and in films and television. Aldredge currently

plays Tony Soprano’s father-in-law on TV and has appeared in films

and on Broadway. David Saint’s directing credits include world premieres

of plays by Laurents and A.R. Gurney.

The design team are all George Street veterans. Michael Anania designed

the set; Theoni V. Aldredge, who has her own Tony for costumes, designed

the costumes; Joe Saint did the lighting, and Christopher J. Bailey

designed the sound. (Joe Saint is David Saint’s brother. Tom and Theoni

V. Aldredge have been married nearing 50 years.)

Many in the opening night sell-out audience were themselves seniors

and gave a standing ovation to these plays tailored to the graying

of America.

— Joan Crespi

Double Play, George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston

Avenue, New Brunswick, 732-246-7717. To Sunday, February 9. $26- $50.


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