ANOTHER DAY ON WILLOW ST
nytheatre.com review by David Hilder
August 14, 2007
Two couples live in buildings next door to each other, yet do not meet for years—a very New York story indeed. In this case, the borough is Brooklyn, where Ian and Stacy, a workaholic couple with a baby on the way, own a brownstone, and Paul and Mark, an attorney and an actor, rent a tiny apartment. The many similarities between these seemingly divergent pairs form the core of Another Day on Willow Street, Frank Anthony Polito's largely terrific play.
Stacy has just quit her job in publishing as she hits her eighth month of pregnancy, and the sudden amount of time on her hands leaves her somewhat staggered. And so she sits on the Promenade, looking at Manhattan (where husband Ian works insane hours on Wall Street) and sipping the decaffeinated Starbucks concoction to which she is addicted. Joining her one day is Mark, who similarly spends a great deal of time waiting for the phone to ring regarding auditions while his partner Paul is in Boston tending to his dying mother. Ian's obeisance to his demanding boss and Paul's sudden request that Mark marry him before his mother dies throw both relationships into tailspins, as all four struggle to hold onto the things that brought them together in the first place.
Ike Schambelan directs with a graceful economy on a simple set (no designer is named, though Amanda Woodward's lighting is accomplished). His choice for staging the play's many phone conversations is apt and effective. More to the point, he has a terrific cast on hand. Polito serves his own script well as Paul, and Craig Bentley's Mark offers strength in a more glib role. Pamela Sabaugh is dynamite as Stacy, facing the demons of her own loneliness and her uncertainty about being a parent, while always finding the laughs available to her. Fred Backus is the weak link here, unable to show what it is about Ian that keeps Stacy with him despite his slavish devotion to work at the expense of his marriage.
There is a great deal to recommend Another Day on Willow Street, including an ending that truly surprises and yet feels completely organic. If some of the dialogue and knowingly repetitive structure are more simplistic than they need to be, and if the piece is so carefully put together that it feels slightly airless, it's still a very worthy evening of theatre, and deserves attention.