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The Violin

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - September 19, 2017

Peter Bradbury, Robert LuPone, and Kevin Isola
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Some very good acting, a couple of emotionally touching speeches, and an evocative set are not enough to cover up the numerous plot holes and overall sudsy narrative of The Violin, a slow-paced melodrama with sit-com flourishes by Dan McCormick having its world premiere at 59E59 Theaters.

The play centers on a get-rich scheme hatched by a petty crook named Bobby (Peter Bradbury) and his mentally challenged younger brother Terry (Kevin Isola). After a rambling introduction, the story gets going when Terry shows up with a violin he found in the back seat of the cab he was driving during one of his short-lived jobs. Terry has abandoned the job and the cab, but he has decided he will keep the violin, teach himself to play it, and pick up some money performing "at Carnegie Hall, or maybe even in the subway tunnels." When Bobby discovers that the violin is a $4 million Stradivarius, he comes up with a half-baked plan to extort a hefty award from the owner in order to pay for his dream of "beaches and palm trees" for the siblings.

All of this takes place under the watchful eye of Gio (Robert LuPone), an aging tailor in whose shop the play takes place. (The grandly cluttered and ground-in grime of a set comes thanks to designer Harry Feiner). Gio's shop is a second home to Bobby and Terry. Although the brothers are both middle-aged, they have relied on Gio to be their surrogate father for many years, especially after their parents "went off to heaven together," as Terry puts it. Gio has always followed the straight-and-narrow path, but his life has been one of tedium and disappointment, enough so that he half-heartedly agrees to go along with the plan.

The rest of the play unfolds amidst side stories that lead nowhere, quarrels, expressions of love and gratitude, and a last-minute confession to justify a sacrifice worthy of a Bette Davis weepie. Somewhere buried in all of this is a lost potential to focus more directly on Gio, who is the living embodiment of regret, loneliness, and remorse. What little we learn of him suggests he should be at the center, and not the brothers, whose behavior is not convincing despite the best efforts of the actors to bring them to life. These are grown men (as their characters are meant to be) acting like adolescents with poor decision-making skills, as if they were escapees from This Is Our Youth who have aged in years but not in experience. The three performers, under Joseph Discher's direction, do their best with what they have been given to work with, but there simply is not enough for The Violin to escape its discordant structure.

The Violin
Through October 14
59E59 Theater A,59 East 59th Street between Park and Madison
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: TicketCentral