Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Memo from the RTC: Rockaway Takes to Serious Drama




Memo from the RTC:  Rockaway Takes to Serious Drama
By Norm Scott

“I just like to go to musicals but I heard this was so good I had to come and I’m so glad I did.” Overheard from a theater goer at the finale of “A View From the Bridge” at the Rockaway Theatre Company last Sunday. I did go back once again for the closing performance and was able to videotape it from up front in the orchestra pit --- lucky this wasn’t a musical or I would have had a problem. I  got to see the actors’ faces close up through the lens and this was ACTING. I must mention once again how amazing was the performance of Jodee Timpone, in her first drama.

I think this may have been one of the highest attended dramas, with some performances nearing sell-outs. Next year when Director Frank Ciaiti springs his October surprise for a drama, the theater will be overflowing.  (I sort of know what’s coming next year but as usual if I tell you I will have to kill you.)

As one of the RTC videographers and member of the construction crew I get to go to all the cast parties and this one was fun as I got a chance to chat with some of the actors (and their friends and significant others). I was looking forward to talking to Guido Corno, the native of Milan who so powerfully played the Italian illegal immigrant Marco who exacts revenge on Eddie, the main character who turns him and his brother in to the immigration authorities. Eddie (an amazing Robert Wilkinson) is driven by jealousy over the relationship between Marco’s brother Rodolpho, played masterfully by Mathew Barrera, and Eddie’s niece Catherine (a lovely Melanie Mahanna).

Well, I finally cornered Guido not just to chat about the play but about his other life outside acting (he studied at the famous Stella Adler Studio) as an environmental activist in support of the Paris climate change agreement (see my School Scope column on the subject. Guido holds a PhD in biological oceanography and has worked with the United Nations on climate change and given the just released report on the impending dangers of climate change, Guido’s work is important. Guido’s goals is to combine his twin passions in bridging art and science. I will continue to track him on his journey.

I left the party around 7PM and the entire cast was on stage – the tilted stage we built – dancing away. Later I heard they went to the beach to frolic and some didn’t leave until after 10 PM. The next morning I joined Tony Homsey’s demolition crew to take down the set and prepare the stage for the upcoming John Gilleace-directed Pippin, opening November 16 and running for 3 weekends. We had begun building the stage in early August over a two week period. It all came down in less than two hours as we had a very large crew working. Frank Ciaiti was there to take part in the deconstruction of his brain child.

We were joined by Robert Wilkinson fresh from his decompression of playing the lead role of Eddie Carbone. After seeing him in such a powerful role so many times I was having trouble getting used to Bob as a regular person. His performance was so awesome I had assumed he was a professional actor. So I was pretty surprised when he told me he has been reading my Ed Notes blog for years as a public school teacher and he thanked me for my advocacy for his school which had suffered under an abusive principal. Due to the policies of the Bloomberg-Klein years, Bob had faced some of the negative impacts of these policies. He now seems set in teaching drama to some very lucky high school kids. Bob had been with the RTC about 15 years ago and I think we will be seeing a lot more of him again for the lucky play-goers in Rockaway.

Let me just say a quick word about some of the supporting cast who had very small roles,. Michael Whelan who has had starring roles in musicals schlepped in from Staten Island just to be part of this production. He was joined in his trek by the always amazing Fred Grieco (he blew us away in last spring’s Lovers and Other Stangers.) And Brian Sadowski who has been in every play at the RTC since he first showed up a year and a half ago. And long-time Rockaway actress Ruth Graves. And other long-timers ensemble members Phyllis De Pierro, Cathy Murfitt and Krista Cederstrom. As always, kudos to behind the scenes essential superstar Adele Wendt. 

The cast takes their bows

Dancing up a storm at the cast party

Director Frank Ciaiti and Bob Wilkinson deconstructing the set

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