Say Goodnight, Gracie
Theater on the Edge • Edgewater, Florida
By Ralph Pape
Directed by Marco DiGeorge
Starring Joshua Fulmer, Christopher Ivers, and Audra Torres
Reviewed by Carl F. Gauze
It’s 1970-something in New York City, and tonight is a big night. Jerry (Fulmer) and his wife Ginny (Torres) are headed to a high school reunion over in Jersey, and their friends Bobby (Faheem Bacchus) and Catherine (Natalie Bulajic) tag along. Steve (Ivers) arrives first, and accidentally (or not) eats a special can of Jerry’s’s soup. Jerry arrives and discovers the soup is off being digested in the wrong belly, and he unloads on Steve. Ginny arrives next, shortly followed by Bobby and Catherine. They brought the pot, and if I had to head over to Jersey for a high school reunion, I’d want to ingest every chemical I could lay my hands on. So, what’s the dramatic dilemma? Jerry refused to attend the reunion. A perfectly plausible state of mind, but then I’m not married to him. What’s his problem? It’s work-related and might be terminal.
As TOTE shows go, Say Goodnight, Gracie rollicks with snaky jokes, New York tough guys, and unresolved teen angst. Fulmer plays the giant troublemaker who never gets in trouble himself. Jerry sulks and whines, walking around with a tire pick letting the air out of everyone else’s fun. The vaguely Hispanic couple of Bobby and Catherine are real life-of-the-party types, and they might even make a reunion tolerable. Lastly, wife Ginny tries to keep everyone else happy, thus making her more miserable than anyone else at this pity party. There’s a McGuffin, but it’s not important. It just agitates the unease underlying these superficially happy humans. Pah! Humans! A miserable lot, don’t you agree? You certainly will after seeing this two-hour epic.
As always, the drama has its own gravitational field, and the set is perfect to the last roach in the the ashtray. Flammable polyester clothes the actors, and the couch reminds me of the one we kept in the college radio station for nights it wasn’t safe to drive home. The stage feels as claustrophobic as real New York City digs, and the payoff worth the wait. There’s funny stuff here as well as the deadly serious, but mostly it’s good to have this operation back in gear and presenting the most serious shows in town. Good thing I have a New Musical Fest to cover next week, I wouldn’t want to set out on that voyage all happy.