The Right Kind of People

By Roz Friedman

Square One Theatre in Stratford is celebrating its 20th Anniversary Season. This is quite a feat for this theater that, under the fine Artistic Direction of Tom Holehan, has excelled in producing three eclectic productions a season; it uses a coterie of actors whom the audience has grown to know and love, and a strong group of supporters, “Friends,” who help choose the plays and give awards at the end of each season. 

“The Right Kind of People” is a slight work, written by the witty actor and playwright Charles Grodin in 2004, and based on his own personal experience; it is barely 90 minutes without intermission and boasts a cast of 9 playing 15 roles. However, in Holehan’s competent hands, this turns out to be a very interesting look at the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of a Co-op Board of a Fifth Avenue residential building in New York City. It may be a sign of the economically-depressed and socially-aware times that the play is perhaps more serious not as funny as the playwright intended it to be. To the credit of the players, each and every one of them, costumed perfectly by Judy Keegan, nail their roles on John Gallagher’s serviceable set, lit by Clifford Fava.

Hats off to Frank Smith, Alexander Kulcsar, John Cassidy, J. Kevin Smith, John Pyron, Davidia Porter, David Victor, Janet Rathert, Frank A. Lanzer, & Joseph Mallon! Alexander Kulcsar as Doug Bernstein, the resident liberal here, gives the kind of performance, smooth and convincing, that rises high above the crowd.   
 
When we meet the Board, they are deciding upon whether to accept a couple to their building. Although their financials are fine, they are rejected, when one of the board members mentions that they should have a certain cache; another says they look like they buy their clothes off the rack. Acted by the attractive John Cassidy, Tom, a new board member, the young nephew of Frank, played well by Frank Smith, is taken-aback by the values expressed. I buy my clothes off the rack, he counters. Tom is a theatrical producer, who has been raised by his uncle and has had great respect for him. Now, he is looking at him in a new light, and mentored by Doug, decides to withdraw from this board and join the rebels. Frank, being divorced by his wife of many years, and hoping that Tom will be his supporter on the board, considers this a traitorous act.  There are no heroes here. It turns out the new board is no better than the old. A Jewish couple is not accepted, even though the head of the board is Jewish.  I am a member of a board, and “The Right Kind of People” really gave me pause to think about how and why we make decisions that effect other people’s lives.    

 Square One is holding a kind of Charles Grodin festival.  On Saturday, November 14, beginning at 12 Noon, Square One will be showing a Charles Grodin double-feature of “Midnight Run” and The Heartbreak Kid.” The double feature is free to subscribers and $5 for non-subscribers. What fun! You can see two movies—go to one of the many cafes in the area for dinner and then attend “The Right Kind of People” that evening at 8pm.  On Saturday, November 21, at approximately 5:20pm, Charles Grodin will join the cast, director and crew for a special post-performance talk back with the audience.  For all info –Box Office 203-375-8776

Square One will continue its 20th season with two more productions in 2010: A.R. Gurney’s ever-popular “Love Letters” from Feb 5-20; and an exciting Irish drama by Helen Edmunson, “The Clearing,” playing from May 14-29. For all info: Box Office: 203-375-8776

This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO

 

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