Mom Theatre Blogger: What I Did Last Summer: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
We are watching a play unfold as typed through the eyes of a 14 year old. In this case, it’s Charlie – representing Gurney — and his stage direction and select lines slide across a screen. It is a unique way to spin theatrical material, as if it’s unfurling, and to help emphasize it, a drummer sits off to the side on the stark stage, creating beats like a punctuation point.
Set in the ’40s, Charlie’s father is away at war, so he’s vacationing with his mom and older sister at Lake Eerie, where he yearns to abandon his Latin studies, bust loose and make his own decisions. This includes getting a job with the “pig woman,” an eccentric outcast (played with the usual delight — and poignancy by the always wonderful Kristine Nielsen). In exchange for various chores he does for her, he gets paid a small amount but gets a big dose of introduction to the arts, as she endeavors to unleash his creative spirit, or at least nurture it. As a former art teacher, taking Charlie under her wing clearly strokes her and reconnects her with Charlie’s WASPy mother, with whom she has her own history.
Various members address the audience, and each likes to think that the play is about them. This tact grows a bit wearisome. And, while the play itself feels thin, there is an understated charm to the simplicity of it. Definitely not one of Gurney’s best, but in the deft hands of director Jim Simpson, and the capable cast, it becomes a pleasant enough, well staged production.
The cast includes Pico Alexander (MCC’s Punk Rock) as Ted, Juliet Brett (The New Group’s The Jacksonian) as Bonny, Noah Galvin (NYTW’s Love and Information) as Charlie, Carolyn McCormick (Signature’s The Open House) as Grace, Kate McGonigle (Off-Broadway debut) as Elsie, Tony Award nominee Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) as Anna Trumbull.
Galvin is really terrific, whether being smug or searching, he is an interesting young actor who commands your attention. The entire cast is appealing and spot on.
The design team includes Michael Yeargan (Scenic Design), Claudia Brown (Costume Design), Brian Aldous (Lighting Design), Janie Bullard (Sound Design), John Narun (Projection Design). Donald Fried is the Production Stage Manager.
What I Did Last Summer, written by A.R. Gurney runs to June 7 at The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues).