USTownhall RealStories presents the cast of BRIDGEBOY
Written by Scott Katz
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 12:04
On Sunday, February 27, 2011, we sat down with the cast, the playwright, and the director of Bridgeboy, a new play running for a limited engagement at Manhattan's Workshop Theater. This off-off-Broadway production, staged by The Active Theater and written by playwright Matthew Keuter, is a darkly comedic take on typical yet not-so-typical members of a working class family – and extended family – who, as the play opens, are facing pivotal turning points in their lives both individually and collectively.
An offer made to the de facto family patriarch Uncle Sal to buy the family bar triggers a night of soul searching, confessions, reunions, revelations, hookups, breakups, and makeups among the group as each, in his or her own dysfunctional way, makes a journey through the course of the play finishing off old business and arriving at a new beginning by the story's end.
Keuter's script – a living room drama set in a bar – gives each of the cast of eight players a chance to shine with multi-layered characters whose true hopes, fears, and dreams are revealed incrementally throughout the play. David Ojala and Michael Andrew Daly star as two brothers who appear to be so different on the outside – Ojala's Trevor is a sensitive artist type, which contrasts nicely with the more brash and physically imposing Jimmy, played by Daly – yet they are very similar underneath as both are driven by their impulses and often act before they think. Daly's talent allows him to find many shades to play, and, with each scene, he brings a new facet of his character to light. Ojala portrays Trevor as guileless and dopey-eyed – someone who isn't afraid to keep his emotions close to the surface. It's a tricky part that could easily become one-dimensional, but the script allows Trevor's optimism to be tested so we get to see the potential downside of a life lived without emotional defenses. Trevor's free spirit causes conflict between him and his girlfriend, Bell, played with both sensitivity and strength by Rhyn McLemore, who is level headed and pragmatic on the surface, but that only serves to hide her feelings of unease and vulnerability about the secret she's carrying.
Looking at the older generation, we have another pair of star-crossed lovers, Sal and Lynn, played by James Judy and Mary Jo Mecca. These are probably the least flashy roles in the play, but the solidly intelligent performances by these two fine actors make them the most intriguing to watch and give the story its weight while providing the axis around which the action revolves. Lynn has her own secret, and the return of her long-lost husband, played with cool deliberation by Anthony Innéo, brings it bubbling to the surface and threatens to upend everyone's fragile reality. Innéo's James comes back to town wanting to settle old scores with his wife and his brother and seems to take a quiet delight in pushing everyone's buttons and setting off volatile reactions. He's not without volatile reactions of his own as Lynn's truth telling proves to be something he hadn't bargained for.
On the comedic side, Catherine Curtin (Candy) and Lisa Altomore (Troll) get the juiciest bits in the story and both revel in it and play their parts for all they're worth. Candy is all inebriated bravado and desperate sexuality with a history of looking for love in all the wrong places, while Troll (who indeed lives under a bridge), a confidant of Trevor (whom she refers to as "Bridgeboy" for more than one reason), serves as a sort of derelict fairy godmother and, by some unknown quasi-mystical means, manages to nudge and guide each character to the place where he or she should be in life and sets them on their true paths. The script is very well balanced and provides a good showcase for actors younger, older, male, and female. This company of actors creates a believable chemistry among them – we accept that they've loved each other and fought with each other for decades. Each of the characters is likely his or her own worst enemy, but still hasn't lost his or her ability to hope and dream.
What sets this play apart from many others of this type is that Keuter wisely avoids many of the clichés that are often associated with the blue collar comedic drama. The actors all play their parts with intelligence and dignity, but the story never devolves into poor-but-proud chest beating – this is meaty family drama rather than banal social commentary. The characters are wise, but never artificially so – they are not used by the author as vehicles to engage in self-indulgent pontification of the author's own views. Secrets are revealed in this play as they are in life – like a bolt from the blue with no soap opera knowing glances or over-deliberate foreshadowing. Credit, too, must be given to director Nathaniel Shaw who makes imaginative use of the very limited stage space and successfully keeps the heart of the story and the bipolar family emotions and baggage front and center. Shaw keeps the action moving briskly throughout Bridgeboy's 1 hour 45 minute running time, which contains no intermission to derail the forward momentum of the plot. The smaller venues of the off-off-Broadway productions, when used correctly as it was with Bridgeboy, have the advantage of providing intimacy and immediacy to the action that draw the audience in more effectively than the larger theatres can.
We are always supportive of worthy theatre productions, like Bridgeboy, that may not get the publicity that the big budget Broadway shows do. The Active Theater has had an ambitious schedule since its creation in 2009, and we encourage theatre lovers from all over who visit the New York area to keep up to date on their continuing schedule at www.theactivetheater.com.