A GREAT BEACH READ
"You should definitely take a break and go enjoy Invisible Theatre Company’s revival of David L. Epstein’s Midnight. This charming light farce, filled with movie makers, method actors, and bumbling gangsters, is a trip to a 1954 New York City as it could only exist on a Silver Screen—a glamorous world of hotels and fame: a place where a dreamer with enough moxie can make his own breaks and to the big time. Perfect for a summer night’s entertainment—the theatrical equivalent of a great beach read. Epstein’s play is set in the grand suite in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Jimmy Halloway, a movie director in the midst of a creative slump, has come to New York for a make-or-break meeting with legendary producer Harvey Gouldenburg. Jimmy has begun to flounder creatively—he has made a series of commercially successful but artistically vapid war pictures—and has made many enemies in the business, including a scorned actor who broke into his home and attacked him with a knife (a knife whose size, it is pointed out to him, gets bigger each time he recounts the story). This mid-career crisis has left him with a phobia of out-of-work actors (making a trip to New York City something of a minefield) and the need to redeem himself by making a truly great movie, which he hopes to do with the help of Gouldenburg’s big name and deep pockets. Attending to Jimmy’s neuroses are Evelyn, his long-suffering assistant and lover, and Dennis, his lawyer and old friend, who puts up with Jimmy and secretly pines for Evelyn. And seeing to this group is Theo Stintz, the very model of the perfect British Butler, who comes with the suite. To add obstacles to Jimmy’s plan for the perfect meeting (and to get the many doors in this farce opening and slamming), Epstein adds the character of Tony Simpolini to the mix. He makes a memorable entrance—sneaking into the suite holding a dog-eared script, hiding in a bar cabinet and staying there until we have almost forgotten about him. When Simpolini reveals himself to Evelyn, we find out he is a self-taught writer from the Bronx, who has come with a single, food-stained copy of his greatest work. He owes money to some Hassidic gangsters from his neighborhood and is desperate to show his play to Jimmy, hoping that he can sell the play, break into a career in the movies and—more immediately—get himself out of the mortal debt which comes due at midnight. Could Simpolini’s play have the kind of authentic, original idea that Jimmy has been looking for? Could he be the rugged and passionate man of Evelyn’s dreams? Have these gangsters followed Simpolini to the hotel? And could there be an out-of-work actor, mentioned in the characters I have already listed, who has succeeded in getting closer to Jimmy than the actor-phobic director would like? As they say in the world of farce, wackiness ensues. Directing his own play, David Epstein has mounted an excellent and entertaining revival with a great cast—an ensemble who make each character not only fit the story but also add to the Hollywood-fable style of the storytelling. Kathleen Wallace’s blend of poise and emotional commitment makes Evelyn the center of the play. Together with Nicholas Warren-Gray as Simpolini, there is a passion and energy that propels the play along and creates scenes with a great sense of heightened, rapid-fire banter, like a silver screen encounter between a young Hepburn and Brando. Gerry Lehane is excellent as Theo the butler, and the play allows him several comic transformations, which Lehane succeeds at making bigger and bigger, keeping pace with the play as it gets more outrageous act by act. When the chaos of the farce is in full pitch, Douglas Goodrich and Elizabeth Horn come crashing in as producer Harvey Gouldenburg and his floozie-for-now Florence and both provide a generous portion of energy and gusto. On the gentler side, Dan Patrick Brady’s skilled underplaying as Dennis creates a graceful and sweet character, perfect for hitting the play’s sentimental notes. Though Max—the “brawn” of the two Hassidic gangsters who antagonize Simpolini—has very few lines, Jesse Gavin’s deadpan timing and perfectly blank expression are a great example of how much can be made of a small role. Invisible City is presenting Midnight for only a short run. I highly recommend you make a night for Midnight, a safe bet for a fun night at the theatre."
"While most of the plays in this book are serious, David Epstein's, Midnight, on the other hand, is an unabashed, honest-to-goodness, comedy reminiscent of the showbiz comedies from yesteryear such as Butter and Egg man and Light Up The Sky... I think Mr. Epstein is a comic talent to watch and I hope you find Midnight as funny as I do.”
Lawrence Harbison, Editor
Smith Kraus Books