Charles Ives Take Me Home. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Off Broadway). By Jessica Dickey. Director: Daniella Topol. With Kate Nowlin, Drew McVety, Henry Stram. Running time: 1hr 20mins. No intermission.
Charles Ives Take Me Home: synopsis
Modernist composer Charles Ives may help bridge the gulf between a divorced violinist and his hoops-loving daughter.
Charles Ives Take Me Home: theater review
Jessica Dickey’s gangling new drama has its heart set on being a tamer Thornton Wilder. Henry Stram, as the innovative American composer Charles Ives, greets us at the start to thank the audience “for using your presence as a vote, if you will, / that before we are dead in the ground, / being together in a room is valuable.” The script describes him as “mischievous, bright, enthusiastic—a deep musical genius” and employs him as a twinkly-folksy source of wisdom about life and art. (Sample stage direction: “He chuckles gently at himself.”) Dead since the early 1950s, Ives narrates some of the action; he also appears in flashbacks to a class that John (McVety), a professionally frustrated violinist, took with him once as a Juilliard student. Ives’s words come back to John as he tries—not very hard, it seems—to understand his daughter, Laura (Nowlin), who loves basketball instead of music.
About a third of Charles Ives Take Me Home is devoted to a passionate speech by the adult Laura to a high-school girls’ basketball team, and those sections of the play are tough and engaging; there are also pleasant musical passages, played live by Stram and McVety. The remainder is both ponderous and thin, despite some lovely acting (under Daniella Topol’s direction). And the story’s basic credibility is gutted by many confusing errors of historical timeline; an adolescent Laura refers to the Indigo Girls in the mid-1960, for instance, and gets a full-ride college basketball scholarship in the early 1970s, well before Title IX made that possible. This strikes me as inexcusably lazy. Did no one involved have an eye on the ball?—Theater review by Adam Feldman
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam
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