A Man of No Importance
nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
February 3, 2012
The musical A Man of No Importance features music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrence McNally. It tells a touching tale about a man struggling with his sexuality in 1964 Dublin, and premiered off-Broadway at Lincoln Center Theater in 2002. The authors previously earned Tony Awards for their collaboration on the musical Ragtime.
According to The Gallery Players, A Man of No Importance "tells the story of Alfie Byrne, a bus conductor in 1964 Dublin who is struggling with a secret he can’t even admit to himself: he is gay. When he’s not driving his route, Alfie pursues his artistic passion and directs theatrical productions for a local troupe in a church hall. He is soon forced to confront his fears, shame and the bigotry of others. A Man of No Importance is a tender and beautifully woven tale of family, friendship and acceptance, teaching us that it really is a wonderful thing to 'love who you love'."
Producer Robert Earle Jones and director Hans Friedrichs have assembled a talented production team and an entertaining cast for this touching show, with ace musical direction by Julianne Merrill, and wonderful musical staging by Christine O’Grady. The small Irish town comes to life on a creative multi-level set by Kate Rance, with humorously appropriate costumes by Sarah Cogan and wigs (those fabulous beehives!) by Jon Jordan. Friedrichs has many of the versatile cast members play musical instruments on certain numbers, joining in with the six orchestra members who are tucked around the set in nooks. This adds even more to the feeling of community in the piece and creates an effective surround-sound element that is most enjoyable. The intricate lighting design by Dan Jobbins also goes a long way in establishing the moods of this show, and sound design by Julian Evans, video/projection design (love the projections of Oscar Wilde quotes throughout the show) by Daniel Heffernan and prop design by Jackie Rivera are all top-notch.
The fine cast features Renee Claire Bergeron, Katie Bruestle, Eric Folks, Rachel Green, Greg Horton, Julianne Katz, Adam Kee, Lorinne Lampert, Eric William Love, Jake Mendes, Eric Morris, Sean Patrick Murtagh, Megan Opalinski, Charlie Owens, Danny Randerson, Spencer Robinson and John Weigand, and all deserve high praise.
Charlie Owens plays Alfie Byrne, the closeted bus conductor who is a single middle-aged male who lives with his middle aged sister, Lily (Renee Claire Bergeron). Lily is worried about her shy baby brother and has put off any “chances” with possible beaus until Alfie finds a suitable mate. Owens plays the pivotal lead with an understated grace and warmth that makes him quite lovable. You feel his confusion of being born with the feelings that he has, and the frustration of working with his bus mate Robbie (Eric Morris) every day without being able to reveal his feelings for him. He and Bergeron have a believable chemistry as brother and sister, and Morris is a handsome young dynamo, who can act, dance, and sing, and who brings Robbie to life with vivacious relish. These two very different characters in the hands of these artists come to life with a sincerity and realism that put the story where it should be. They are friends, and genuinely like each other as people. And we like them as friends. Which is makes it all the more poignant and upsetting when after finally taking a chance on exploring his feelings with someone (not Robbie) Alfie is thrown into a violent situation. But the piece also has humor and balance. There are plenty of laughs to be had watching Alfie directing the town folks in an amateur production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome and the story does not end as you think it might. There are no easy answers here, but plenty to think about.
Everyone here does very good work, with standout moments for many, including Erik Folks as both the compassionate clergyman Father Kenny and Alfie’s cantankerous boss, Mr. Carson; Julianne Katz as the sweet young Adele Rice, who has secrets of her own; Greg Horton as the opinionated butcher, William Carney; and John Weigand as the sweet widower James “Baldy” O’Shea.To make it a true night out in Park Slope we randomly tried Piramide Mexican Bistro where they support the arts by offering a 15% discount off your tab just for mentioning The Gallery Players when you order, and were delighted to experience some of the BEST Mexican food that we have ever tasted. Great theater, great food, bargain price…go Brooklyn!