Friday, September 22, 2017

Memo From the RTC: Don’t Feed The Elephant Man and an Upcoming Benefit October 7

Memo From the RTC:  Don’t Feed The Elephant Man and an Upcoming Benefit October 7
Sept. 22, 2017
By Norm Scott
“We are inspired by the beauty of John  Merrick’s life.” ­– Frank Caiati, Director’s Note, Rockaway Roster, Post Theater, Fort Tilden.

I was at opening night of the Rockaway Theatre Company’s production, “The Elephant Man” a play I normally wouldn’t see because the subject matter makes the audience look at serious issues and my fragile brain muscle is not equipped to do too much of that thinking stuff. But I felt enough stirrings to go back for more this weekend where I expect my brain to double the size of the dumbbells it will be lifting.
 I was thinking of how to write up this complex play when I noticed RTC stalwart Jodee Timpone’s comment on Facebook. So I asked Jodee if I can steal her words, which are so much more elegant than any I could write.
“I went to see ‘The Elephant Man’. If I'm being honest, I went more to support my friends and theater company than of a burning desire to see this particular play. But from the minute the curtain opened, I knew I was going to see something special. And I was not wrong.
Before I joined RTC, I went to the theater to be entertained. Now, having learned so much from my 10 years there, I look at theater with different eyes. And perhaps that is why I can overlook the somewhat dismal subject matter of this play and appreciate the brilliance of this production.
The set: not elaborate, yet very cool incorporating the use of built in arches and well executed entrances and exits thru those arches to take the audience from one "scene" to another .
The costumes: there are no words.
The acting: from the ensemble with their crisp sharp movements and well delivered dialogue to the lead who makes you forget he is not actually deformed... excellent.
And finally, to Frankie [Caiati], the director... your creativity is boundless and to execute your vision as you did is extraordinary.
Kudos to you all.”
Jodee Timpone
Like Jodee, I too have had my view of the theater as a concept changed over the past decade and now have a much broader understanding of all aspects of theater production. I’ve especially learned to appreciate the work actors do, something that is so difficult that I marvel at how people can turn themselves into someone else one moment and turn back into themselves the next and being so believable in their roles and confusing my feeble little brain. I’ve especially seen that backstage watching some of the lead actors prepare. It is always nice to watch the mix of RTC vets, more recent recruits and those making their RTC debuts.
The lead role of John Merrick is played by RTC newcomer Byron Hagan, a role played most recently on Broadway by no less than Bradley Cooper in addition to David Bowie and Philip Anglim. Merrick was severely deformed but Hagan is called upon to simulate these deformities without makeup – only by twisting his body and his face to convince the audience. And boy does he deliver. Bryon is a graduate of the famous Actor’s Studio.
Another major role is played by RTC newcomer O’mer Komen as Mrs. Kendal, who creates a moving character who gains Merrick’s trust and brings her friends, the upper crust of society, to meet him who had so recently been shunned by all. The key role of the doctor is played by director Caiati himself, an RTC vet of 15 years. Other long-time RTC vets in the marvelous cast are Tom Kane, Fred Grieco, Frank Freeman and Susan Corning who are joined by recent recruits over the past two years, Brian Sadowski, Rob Mintzes, Adele Wendt and Dana Mongelli. Rob, Adele and Dana are all grads of Frank Caiati’s acting class, which he gives every fall. I too am a proud grad – multiple times ­– I keep getting left back.
This weekend is the last chance to see this play, the final play of the season for the RTC, though there is still the reprise of Rockaway Café with its all star cast to come in November. or call the ticket hotline at 718-374-6400.
With the play closing this Sunday, RTC turns its attention to the October 7, 8PM, performance of The Rhapsody Players, a wonderful singing group that includes RTC vet Renee Steadman-Titus. John Heffernan, who played one of he leads in last year’s La Cage Aux Folles, leads the group. The October 7 event at the RTC is a fundraiser for someone dear to the group in danger of losing a leg. Tickets are $20. Reservations- email or call 646-335-2710.

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