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Silver Spring Stage A Bad Friend

By • Mar 2nd, 2009 • Category: Reviews
A Bad Friend
Silver Spring Stage
Theater at Woodmoor Shopping Center, Silver Spring, MD
$13 – $18
Playing through March 15th
Reviewed February 27, 2009

Silver Spring Stage picks an unusual play to do during these downtrodden times in our world, but the main theme of betrayal is still sadly relevant. SSS has given us a good, if not great, show. It’s a challenging script, and the format is reminiscent of a film rather than a play. No surprise there as the playwright is also a screenwriter.

The play focuses on one Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1950s…precocious teenager Rose, her heavily political parents, and Uncle Morty, a Hollywood screenwriter gaining renown for his scripts and his Un-American behavior. Rose is misunderstood by her mother, a staunch Stalin supporter hell bent on eradicating Anti-Semitism. She also feels isolated from her father, another Progressive constantly questioning the things around him. She’s a very normal girl, intelligent and curious, and desperately seeking a familial relationship with an adult who didn’t read her pamphlets instead of fairytales as a child. It is on this search that she meets Emil, an older gentleman who takes pictures and paints the Brooklyn Bridge over and over again. They begin a friendship that has a lasting impact on Rose’s life.

All the actors seemed to take some time finding their characters and hitting their stride, mainly because the script took its time in helping those developments. Lauren Uberman as Rose didn’t quite have the look or the naivete of a teenager, more self-possessed and confident than the character ought to have been, but she still gave a convincing portrayal. With each entrance, she infused the stage with energy and quirky light that made her very likable, and genuine. She also had great comedic timing. She had a wonderful chemistry with both Uncle Morty (Brian Turley) and Emil (the indomitable Craig Miller). Turley gave us a lot of charm needed for Morty, and was particularly chilling and yet, moving, in his final monologue. Miller is fabulous as always, adding layer and dimension to Emil’s character.

Rose’s parents, Naomi & Shelly, were played by Sally Cusenza and Gordon Adams. Naomi should be in striking contrast to Shelly…robust, loud, obnoxious, passionate. She needed to use her character’s own criteria for yelling versus screaming into consideration to find the heart of the character. However, Cusenza did have some quietly lovely moments of conviction, especially in Act II. Adams gave a subtle but extremely affective performance. Standing up to Naomi at one point, his conflict between love for his wife and loyalty to himself was poignant.

Stuart Fischer as Fallon, the mysterious man of the piece, was creepily successful.

The actors’ New York accents were fine if not uniform, sometimes getting a little more Bronx than Brooklyn. But it did not detract from their performances.

There were three left handed actors in this cast of six…one couldn’t tell if that was simply a coincidence or something with much deeper ties to the script.

Most of the staging (director Seth Ghitelman) was well done, but all scenes at the dinner table ignored house left…with a tiny angling of one chair, both sides of the audience would be afforded a much better view instead of the backside of more than one actor.

The lighting (Peter Caress) was soft and nicely done, with the striking exception of the complete blackouts during the show that were tough to take. No doubt they are written fully into the script to differentiate between the 30 or so vignettes, but it is here that the audience loses focus repeatedly, and it’s hard to see the show as something cohesive.

The set (Mikel Sitka) is nice if not extravagant, with one exception: a beautiful piece of scenic art…a large, dreamy rendering of the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Esplanade. However, with a different design entirely it may have been easier to stage the play in a way that the numerous blackouts could have been limited.

The script itself was intellectual but a little weak, with the first act completely polemic. The screenplay-like format is very difficult to incorporate into live performance. McCarthyism has been spotlighted on the stage more than once…Arthur Miller’s Crucible, Jeffrey Sweet’s The Value of Names, etc. A Bad Friend didn’t pack the same intensity or eloquence as the others.

It was an interesting evening. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are strong performances worth seeing.

Lauren Uberman (Rose) & Stuart Fischer (Fallon) Lauren Uberman (Rose) & Craig Miller (Emil)
Lauren Uberman (Rose) & Stuart Fischer (Fallon)
Lauren Uberman (Rose) & Craig Miller (Emil)
Brian Turley (Morty) & Lauren Uberman (Rose) Brian Turley (Morty)
Brian Turley (Morty) & Lauren Uberman (Rose)
Brian Turley (Morty)
Lauren Uberman (Rose), Gordon Adams (Shelly) & Sally Cusenza (Naomi) Gordon Adams (Shelly) & Sally Cusenza (Naomi)
Lauren Uberman (Rose), Gordon Adams (Shelly) & Sally Cusenza (Naomi)
Gordon Adams (Shelly) & Sally Cusenza (Naomi)
Lauren Uberman (Rose)
Lauren Uberman (Rose)
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