It’s been far too long since a great theatrical production has gotten my attention here in lovely Philadelphia.
The current play Richard Rubin is directing produced under the auspices of Quince Productions, LLC is “Niagara FallsNiagara Falls,” by Victor Bumbalo. In New York City, where Rubin is from originally having moved to Philadelphia 4 years ago, he directed the world premiere of Bumbalo’s “Show,” part of an overall evening of one-act plays called “Homosexual Acts.”
Is it his experience with Bumbalo’s work that made his Philly directorial debut of Niagara Falls so organic and spellbinding?
Niagara Falls uniquely depicts the story of a gay man home to surprise his sister on her wedding day. The brother’s visit is the catalyst of self realization for each character. The play is in two acts with the first taking place in an Italian kitchen in the 1970s. The setting was demure but poignant with tiny details. Rubin doesn’t need whistles or bells to get this play across. He has cast stellar actors that fill the stage with their presence in this dialogue heavy piece. Both scenes start beautifully. I’m so tired of seeing actors and actresses just stomp onto a stage to start a play. Niagara Falls finesses you without trying hard. It’s the subtleties. The cast and director get you to watch so closely so you don’t miss a thing.
In Act I, Hilary Kayle Crist is the normal, everyday, submissive, obedient, Italian woman. Crist portrayed Connie Poletti not only with her vernacular but also with her tired housewife stance. Her epiphany and eventual triumph left me wanting to stand and applaud mid-scene for her bravery.
Andrew Vitagliano as Johnny Poletti was a perfect scumbag. He bullied and pushed his wife around like a real “paisan” straight from the old country. These two characters dialogued back and forth like a tennis match.
Act II has three different characters. At a motor lodge a newly married couple, Jackie Ventura (Nicole Mesiano) and Vinnie Ventura (Robert Cutler) carry on the discussion and rippling effects of homosexuality being brought to the surface. Darnell Radford as Fred Henneberry, aids in this critical discussion as the enlightening hotel attendant. The three actors carry this segment of the play off with such fluidity I was shocked how fast the show was over. Niagara Falls is a funny, witty and touching production by Quince.
Let me tell you, I’m as antsy as they get but I could’ve easily sat for another hour of show. Or I could just go see it again, but time is running out. Niagara Falls at Shubin Theatre runs until August 2nd with an additional show August 3rd to benefit the AIDS Fund Philadelphia.