Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
All of Me
Also see Fred's review of Golden Leaf Ragtime Blues
Alphonso (Danny J. Gomez) was paralyzed when he was a baby. He recently lived in New York City and is fiscally secure. He has his own apartment in Schenectady where his mother Elena (Maggie Bofill) is on hand to assist as he settles. Lucy (Madison Ferris) is beset by a disease that is weakening her muscle strength and usage. Prior to this, she demonstrated great vocal dexterity as a jazz singer. She shares living space with her mother Connie (Leah Hocking), sister Jackie (Alexandra Seal), and Jackie's fiancé Moose (Jack Fellows); they struggle to make ends meet.
In the first scene, Lucy, operating her motorized scooter, and Alfonso, working his motorized wheelchair, are mutually attracted. When they banter, it's quickly evident that these are individuals whose approaches to life are singularly different. Alfonso is bold and willing to risk while Lucy is more blunt and down. He is, in general, the optimist. Watching two skilled actors who have such command of their characters is greatly fulfilling.
Danny J. Gomez is paralyzed from the waist down and has elected to become an advocate for Hollywood actors. As Alfonso, he appears confident and eventually shows a more urgent side. Alfonso has higher educational credits and a new job related to public health. Madison Ferris played Laura in the Sam Gold presentation of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway and was the first woman using a wheelchair to do so. Her Lucy is initially stolid but she shows vulnerability later on. Lucy is a self-sarcastic realist who understands her situation and will not be thrilled if she forever finds herself working at Walmart. The play within this play (between Gomez and Ferries) is brilliant and most revelatory.
Connie, Lucy's embittered, disgruntled mother, has her own severe back issues but refuses to use a cane. Jackie is a wise-cracking big sister who feels for Lucy but has her own problems: she desperately wants to get married to Moose. He's simultaneously gawky and hunky–and something of a gambler. While Lucy and Alphonso are immediately engaging, the overarching play accelerates with a scene inside the living area of Connie's house. Brian Prather's appropriate furnishings aren't the most up to date and the home is simply too small to accommodate four people. Monroe's crackling dialogue is never better than with Connie, Lucy, Jackie and Moose, decent enough people who are struggling to make a buck, make a go of it, and survive. Hence, tempers flare. On the other hand, Alfonso's abode is swanky. His mother Elena is a haughty and dismissive picture of arrogant artifice when she meets Connie.
Set designer Prather is adept at shifting from one scene to another, and costume designer Sarah LeFeber's wardrobe choices certainly enhance the proceedings. Finally, if there were a soundtrack available of recorded music for this performance, it would be in demand. Mellow, classic jazz ballads or parts of those songs (recorded) fill the air from time to time. Who can resist "All of Me," "At Last," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and other gems?
The beginning of the play, staged in a parking lot outside a Schenectady hospital, demands attention and the following couple of hours do not disappoint. Laura Winters' provides a drama infused with moments of wry comedy. Details are important. For example, Alfonso's voice is more true-to-life since he is able to afford high caliber equipment. By contrast, Lucy, whose electronic device isn't state-of-the-art, hasn't that quality of vocal sound. In all, this fall show on the Boyd-Quinson Stage is a perceptive and edifying contribution and deserving of its selection as the Burman New Play Award Winner.
All of Me runs through October 9, 2022, at Barrington Stage Company, 30 Union St., Pittsfield MA. For information and tickets, call 413-236-8888 or visit barringtonstageco.org.