ROBIN’S SHOW REVIEW: A Charity Case
A CHARITY CASE starring Two-Time Tony Nominee Alison Fraser, Alysia Reiner (Sideways) and Jill Shackner (Les Miserables) began previews October 28th at The Clurman Theatre( 410 West 42nd Street- between 9th and 10th Avenues) and opened November 2nd. This new play about adoption is written and directed by Australian playwright Wendy Beckett.
As an adoptive parent myself, I was intrigued by the premise. In fact, my husband and I attended with another couple who had adopted. The next day, they commented it led them to have an introspective chat about their daughter who came from an orphanage in Russia. I didn’t find it so much an inspiration for discussion but rather for gratitude. The characters in the play were so extreme in the challenges they faced, i.e. alcoholism, a mental breakdown, threats of self infliction while yearning for love and acceptance, that I considered myself fortunate to be in a “positive place” with my son.
The play asks the question….Is it possible to find yourself when you don’t understand where you came from? A 17 year old girl struggles to come of age while caught between loyalty to the self-absorbed woman (raising her as a single mother) who became her adoptive mother and curiosity about the troubled woman who gave her away at age 3 by sending her off on a train.
A CHARITY CASE features Alison Fraser (as the adoptive mother), Jill Shackner (as the adopted daughter) and Alysia Reiner (as the birthmother).
Fraser most recently starred in School For Lies at Classic Stage Company and created the role of Sister Walburga in Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister. She is a two-time Tony Award nominee for playing Martha in The Secret Garden and Josefine in Romance/Romance. Film and TV credits include “Between the Lions,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Third Watch,” The Thing About My Folks” opposite Peter Falk and Paul Reiser, “In the Blood” and the upcoming “Commentary.”
Shackner has appeared on Broadway in Les Miserables and Off-Broadway in Landscape of the Body, Prince and The Pauper, Penny 4 Eyes Rock N’ Roll Show, and The Broadway Kids. Her television credits include “All My Children,” “Three Moons Over Milford,” “As the World Turns,” “Out of the Box,” “Star Search,” and “Celebrity Deathmatch,” and film credits consist of “Text Me” (NYC International Film Festival – Best Actress Nominee; Houston Comedy Film Festival – Best Actress Nominee), “Paper Man,” and “House of D.”
Reiner is an award-winning stage, screen and television actress. Recent theatre credits include Tina Modotti in Modotti, Hillary (The Public), the Obie winning An Oak Tree, Jayson with a Y (The New Group), Anais Nin:One of Her Lives, Wasps in Bed, Pentecost (Drama Desk Nom.) and the NY Premiere of Tender. Recent films include “The Vicious Kind,” “Not For Nothing” “Arranged,” “Schooled,” “ One Last Thing,” “ Sideways” TV includes recurring role of Cindy on “The Starter Wife,” “ 30 Rock,” “White Collar,” “The Sopranos,” “Blue Bloods,” “Law and Order,” “Love Monkey,” “The Jury,” “The Drew Cary Show,” “The Practice,” “Family Law” and “Jack and Jill,” and the new web series “Puppy Love.”
The acting is generally strong, particularly on the part of Fraser. When Reiner lost the hippie garb and blonde wig, she came all the more alive as an actress of poise and presence. While she exuded impassioned emotion as hippie Harpie, her costume was distracting, and her rants grew tiresome. Shackner’s appealing as the daughter, but her performance had moments of affectation. Fraser’s portrayal of a dress designer/seamstress struggling with her own demons is compelling and tinged with compassion.
The play does offer disturbing moments, i.e. when Fraser, heatedly tears up the stitching of the daughter’s homemade homecoming gown….and poignant moments, i.e. when Shackner quietly asks the million dollar question, “Who decides what makes a mother?”
Writer and director Wendy Beckett has written more than 25 plays (all staged) and directed more than 40 in England, France Scotland Australia and New York. A native of Australia, she has also written radio plays for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). She later went on to conduct interviews for ABC with some of the best minds of our time, including Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Martha Graham. At the early age of 22, she founded her own women’s theatre company, ‘Colours Inc’ and began bringing to the stage several plays, which toured Australia. Her most notable works include Without Limits-Isadora Duncan, Anais Nin-One of Her Lives, Claudel, Losing My Religion, Love Therapy and Refugees. Her directorial credits include works by Shakespeare, The Cherry Orchard, Waiting For Godot and The Women of James Joyce. Recently, she has directed her own work, For the Love of Alma Mahler at the Sydney Opera House, accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She has been a university lecturer, author, librettist and journalist. Ms. Beckett’s works are collected by The Australian National Library in Canberra.
Scenic design is by David L Arsenault, with lighting design by Travis McHale and costume design by Theresa Squire.
The playing schedule for A CHARITY CASE is as follows: Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, with matinees on Saturday at 2pm and Sundays at 3PM. The Clurman Theatre is on Theatre Row – 410 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenue). The show is 85 minutes, no intermission.
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