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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 3:45 pm | Fair 64º


Review: ‘Brooklyn Boy’ at Plaza Playhouse Theater a Play Inspired by Life

Redemption is a common theme in storytelling of all kinds. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies’ comic drama Brooklyn Boy is no exception. But the beautiful thing here is that instead of being predictable and heavy-handed about it, this play offers its characters (and audience) hard-won nuggets of redemption just when it seems entirely beyond reach.

Smoothly directed by Bill Waxman, this production stars Ed Giron as Eric Weiss, a middle-aged writer finally achieving not only critical acclaim but popular success with his third novel, Brooklyn Boy. As he continues to explain with increasing exasperation, it is a novel inspired by his life, not an autobiography. But perhaps fiction is closer to truth than he cares to admit.

Giron does a fine job as Eric, portraying with great nuance the myriad stresses and joys he experiences as his father lies dying, his marriage falls apart and his novel is both on the bestseller list and optioned by Paramount.

Jerry Oshinsky is wonderfully horrible as Eric’s father, who lies in his hospital bed belittling his son’s accomplishments and complaining that the book is dedicated to simply, “My mother and father,” without including their names.

Richard Lonsbury embraces with gusto and warmth the character of Ira Zimmer, Eric’s childhood friend. He is playing older, and Giron is playing a bit younger, but a few moments into their first scene together, awareness of this falls away and they are completely convincing as two kids from the old neighborhood, grown up and gone their separate ways. Their later scene together is powerful, as Ira stubbornly, and endearingly, refuses to give up his attempts at Eric’s salvation.

Most scenes are between Eric and one other character, which ups the level of intensity and brings sharper focus to the relationships. The scene with Eric and Nina, his soon-to-be ex-wife, is one of the tightest and most bittersweet. Shannon Saleh is excellent as Nina, also a writer, but not a successful one. There are many layers of love, loss and pain portrayed here as they come to terms with the end of their marriage, and the chemistry between them feels real.

Alison Waxman brings a welcome youthful energy as an admiring graduate student Eric invites back to his hotel room after a book signing in Los Angeles. She plays it cool, but is undeniably star-struck. He is flattered and flustered, and the dance between them as they banter, as well as genuinely attempt to connect across the generations, is delightfully taut.

Aden Hailu and Sean Jackson are producer and proposed star of the film version of Eric’s book, and their scene with him plays satisfyingly on familiar Hollywood movie-making tropes. Jackson’s Tyler is earnest in his misguided attempts to connect with Eric, cocky and preening but genuinely admiring of the author. The only negative about his performance is that he does not have more stage time. When they convince Eric to read a scene with him as the father character, there is a compelling moment when the son hears himself speaking his father’s words and recoils in disgust.

The final scene is poignant but subtle, and as with so many things in life, the delay makes the final gratification all the sweeter.

Brooklyn Boy by Dijo Productions runs through Jan. 18 at the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carpinteria. For tickets and more information, click here or call 805.684.6380.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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