Extra! Extra!: Cast of the Hallway Trilogy
Fri Feb 25 2011
Photograph: Sandra Coudert
Adam Rapp's the Hallway Trilogy (at the Rattlestick through March 20) is a lot of show to review. Three 100-minute plays, three time periods spanning 1953 to 2053, designs for each installment, dozens of story lines and characters. That's not even counting, you know, interpreting it all and trying to weigh it in the context of Rapp's previous work. So go ahead, accuse me of being reductive in my 360-word review; I won't defend myself. Often, one of the casualties in these short pieces is a detailed appraisal of the acting. And the Hallway Trilogy has a kickass ensemble (most pictured above): 14 performers, many double cast, doing exceptional work. After the jump, I toss laurels on individual troupers.
In alphabetical order:
As an uptight Russian horn player in Rose and a self-destructive rocker junkie in Paraffin, Apps excels at both manic repressed and shambolic sleaze. He offers gonzo, balls-out acting at its finest. And not many actors could pull off a scene where you've soiled your pants and strip and clean yourself right in front of us.
Both of his characters—the Israeli immigrant Ido and the American businessman Joe—are men trying to maintain dignity under assault (from bitter, abusive ex-soldiers, it turns out). Beitzel has a quiet, brooding watchfulness about him that is both inscrutable and engrossing.
A Rapp regular, the rumble-voiced, potbellied Boyd gets to show off his range here. In Rose, he's a corrupt, drunken, vaguely lecherous superintendent. In Paraffin, he's a gay, lonely milliner who shows kindness and charity to all his neighbors. Boyd is utterly authentic, no matter who he's playing.
Cancelmi could coast on his dark, square-jawed good looks, but he works hard and exudes intelligence and integrity. Both of his parts are lovelorn idealists whose romantic obsessions are shading into perversity. There's Jerry, the 1950s Communist agitator who lusts after an upstairs neighbor who couldn't care less; and then there's Andy, a sweet, caring nurse in 2053 who falls hard for his patient, a fatal mistake.
Trembling, hesitant, rueful, wry—these are the qualities I associate with the lovely and unique Dizzia. She works in a minor key, combinations of small physical gestures, or line deliveries graced with a slight lisp. As an emotionally fragile Israeli woman and as an emotionally detached nurse, she's utterly riveting.
This cast has a lot of beautiful people—doing ugly, stomach-turning things. Take the strapping Green, who plays an ex-soldier who allows himself to be injected with hideous diseases, and then cured—inside an airproof glass chamber as part of a living museum exhibit. Green is such a vibrant, charismatic performer, he makes even the grossest stuff thrillingly sensual. He gets naked at one point; if you think that's hot, you're sick.
Sue Jean Kim
Petite, poised and sweet, Kim is the understandable object of one character's desire in Paraffin and a creepy tour guide from the future in Nursing. There's an opacity to her performances that's both bewitching and strange. And she also does some first-rate drunk-acting in Paraffin.
At a party, I bet this guy is either tons of fun or scary as hell. Both of his roles are clownish goons—the bizarre, near-mute Marbles in Rose, and the sadistic Polish thug Leshik in Paraffin. He doesn't speak a word of unmangled English. Lawson seems to disappear completely into these grotesque, highly physical roles. Unless, of course, he's already psychotic.
Along with Apps and Lawson, Lemp is a member of the troupe The Amoralists, and she comes to this production after Rapp worked with the company on his early play, Ghosts in the Cottonwoods. She's a wonderfully precise and tender performer, balancing emotional openness and steely will, reminding you of a young Cherry Jones or Elizabeth Marvel.
I love this guy's voice, gravely and warm with a Brooklyn accent sweet as cherry gelato on a Coney Island boardwalk. He can play a menacing quasi-mafioso in Rose, and then he turns around and becomes a lovelorn geek and building superindentent in Paraffin. Because he's tall and tough-looking, Mastrogiorgio often gets cast as the heavy, but never forget this wonderfully soulful actor has a light touch.
Possessed of ethereal beauty and a voice that is flat in just the right way, Nicholson nails the period in Rose, set in 1953 (listen up, Matthew Weiner). Her voice is close to a monotone, yet delicately musical; her languid physicality and half-lidded eyes bespeak sensuality and mortality. As an unhappily pregnant hipster in Paraffin, Nicholson has more feminist pride (circa 2003), but she's always nursing an inner bruise.
This is an ensemble, but Strong is so damn good, he almost steals his show—particularly Paraffin. Using his wheelchair as both deadly weapon and extension of character, Strong slashes coolly through his scenes as a disabled Afghanistan War vet, dispensing cruel jokes with consummate sangfroid. Cold, clean and dead-eyed, Strong is unstoppable.
Of all the actors, she's the only one with just one role. I'm not sure if that's thematically significant or just a fluke of logistics. At any rate, Waterston is heartbreakingly raw and open as Rose, a deluded starlet who thinks that Eugene O'Neill faked his death and is living in the building. O'Neill may be Rose's idol, you can't help thinking of Tennessee Williams as the true author of her type of character—a damaged, wilting flower of tragic beauty.
Stephen Tyrone Williams
Williams may have the least stage time of anyone in the cast, but he makes a strong impression. First, he's Guy Boyd's sassy one-night-stand in Paraffin, where he fends off perceived racism from a bunch of LES bohemians. Then in Nursing, Williams is a no-bullshit ex-soldier who has to guard the disease exhibit. In both cases, the young actor's intense and makes every second count.