nytheatre.com review by Chris Harcum
August 16, 2008
Monarch Theater has created one tight dramatic ride with Good Pictures. Like a good piece of jazz music, every element is pitch-perfect, full of surprises, and ebbs and flows with several kinds of emotion. It stands as an example of how quality-made, plot-driven material combined with high caliber character work and subtle direction is the stuff that sticks to your ribs unlike any substitute.
In fact, everyone working on this piece has done their jobs so completely, it is difficult to parse out who gets credit for which notes being played so beautifully.
Ashlin Halfnight has penned a prison thriller so lean you might catch yourself trying to find one syllable out of place and being confounded by his rhythmic, natural dialogue and two-steps-ahead-of-you structure.
Dominic D'Andrea makes great use of Jesse Poleshuck's authentic set and appropriately spare lighting by deploying his Jedi Mind Trick direction. 30 seconds into this, you forget anyone staged it and believe you are seeing real life in real time. The breathtaking and 100% sustained moment-to-moment work provided here points to a director with real chops.
James Nugent plays George Turek with sly simplicity. The complicated chords he sounds serve to keep the pulse and changes alive as he sits in profile three-quarters of the play. Trust me when I say the man is so believable as his character and so facile with his craft, he literally does this play with half his body tied behind his back. It is a master class in how to inhabit a role. If you didn't check your program, you would swear they shipped a guy with a questionable past named George Turek in from overseas. The humanity and frailty he emanates will make you forgive him when his objectionable choices are revealed.
Years from now, when I think back to the summer of 2008, I will remember two dynamic performances: Heath Ledger in Dark Knight and William Jackson Harper in Good Pictures. Harper's portrayal of Prometheus is played like Miles Davis's "Blue in Green," holding you gripped from beginning to end. He keeps the tension crackling in the air and makes the audience laugh deep from the gut when the situation is bleakest. His 60-layers-deep character is played with such assurance, Yale ought to sample his DNA to ensure the next generation of great actors. You will see him EVERYWHERE in the future, mark my words.
Qui Nguyen's violence coordination and Sydney Maresca's costumes support the authenticity of the play, which, if there is any justice in the world, should top the yearly list of most produced American play in a couple of seasons. Yes, it's that good.