MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Off Broadway

The Low Road Tries Valiantly To Hit the High

The Low Road Tries Valiantly To Hit the High

Michelle Obama once inspiringly told us that when they go low, we should go high, and although I have always believed in that motto whole heartedly, it all didn’t quite work out in the way that I was hoping it would in the last election.  But over at The Public Theater, playwright Bruce Norris (2ST’s A Parallelogram) has decided to go down The Low Road with a vengeance, and in a miraculous manner, he has hit the high.  Somehow Norris has found a way to set a story in the mid to late 1700’s and smack our modern political nightmare with a powerful punch in a way that few plays produced this year have.  It has managed what many have tried, such as another Public show, Kings; to make a commentary of our particular troubling state of affairs, a world that America has created, with pointed arguments and astute observances. Even when a few too many are not fully explored or detailed and the last half fails to stay as focused as the first, we do end up at the end of our travels more satisfied than not. The Low Road, with a huge and talented cast of 17 playing 50 different roles, not only has been fully entertaining and a joy to behold, but we discover we have been satirically informed and taught a thing or two as we sat back and shared this rollicking adventure down a bumpy dirt road towards morality.

THE LOW ROADWritten by Bruce Norris Directed by Michael Greif Featuring Tessa Albertson, Max Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Daniel Davis, Crystal A. Dickinson, Gopal Divan, Harriet Harris, Jack Hatcher, Chukwudi Iwuji, Johnny Newcomb, Chris Perfetti, Susanna
Crystal A. Dickinson, Chris Perfetti, and Harriet Harris. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Director Michael Greif (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, Signature’s Angels in America, 2010 revival) with a caustic eye for biting humor and poignant commentary, has guided this fantastic crew to create a stunningly simple but expertly designed stage by David Korins (Hamilton), with stellar costumes by Emily Rebholz (Indecent), perfect wigs, hair and makeup by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova (Bandstand), solid lighting by Ben Stanton (Fun Home), and exacting sound design by Matt Tierney (Red Speedo) for this cynical deconstruction and examination of systems of American structure and human nature that parallels the era we find ourselves trying to survive.  Following the life of its anti-hero, the stand-in for American greed, Jim Trewitt, played at first by the young Jack Hatcher, grows up under the care of the Mrs Trewitt, played by the marvelous Harriet Harris (Primary Stage’s The Roads to Home) to become the smart and status-hungry young man, portrayed by the fresh-faced Chris Perfetti (Broadway’s Six Degrees of Separation), whose character doesn’t possess any innocence or generosity that one could hope for in a young man. He has placed his faith and humanity in the free market, and responsed to charity with abuse, but his path to riches becomes entangled with an educated slave, John Blanke, played exquisitely by Chukwidi Iwuji (National Theatre’s Hedda Gabler, Public’s Hamlet) who knows a thing or two about the cost of such thinking, especially as it is reflected in the eyes of his love, Ntombi, played solidly by the chameleon, Crystal A. Dickinson (Broadway’s Clybourne Park).

THE LOW ROADWritten by Bruce Norris Directed by Michael Greif Featuring Tessa Albertson, Max Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Daniel Davis, Crystal A. Dickinson, Gopal Divan, Harriet Harris, Jack Hatcher, Chukwudi Iwuji, Johnny Newcomb, Chris Perfetti, Susanna
Chukwudi Iwuji, Crystal A. Dickinson. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Their adventure together, although not made from an engaging sense of comradery, finds the two shackled together literally and metaphorically coming face to face with all levels of humanity, humility, and riches. Their dialogue is dynamic matching the highly energetic storytelling being given to their story. They experience first hand the thin and imaginary lines between exploitation and opportunity through two very different households, with each one being wonderfully portrayed by this solid cast of professionals. Neither of the two men, polar opposites in outlook, come out particularly clean of the dirt that society throws at one another, especially if rank and status are at odds.

THE LOW ROADWritten by Bruce Norris Directed by Michael Greif Featuring Tessa Albertson, Max Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Daniel Davis, Crystal A. Dickinson, Gopal Divan, Harriet Harris, Jack Hatcher, Chukwudi Iwuji, Johnny Newcomb, Chris Perfetti, Susanna
Tessa Albertson, Daniel Davis, Kevin Chamberlin, Harriet Harris. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

The surprising first scene in Act Two, a shock to our system and one completely unexpected, doesn’t feel entirely necessary, although the question that hangs in the air: “Why legislate unfairness?” is powerfully relevant. It is as if we are being schooled by a superior in an idea or metaphor that was pretty obvious to begin with, but it does give us a measured signal that the second half is not as solidly structured or as tight as the first. Norris becomes a little less focused in his closing argument, losing a bit of his stance in his lecture and diatribe, but manages to hold fairly true to his overall thesis.  “Would you give the keys to the same drunk driver who just crashed the car?” This examination of the basic capitalistic beliefs from which our modern economic society has been built, set in  the 18th Century, is as inventive, exciting, and exacting in its biting commentary as one could hope while also being wildly entertaining.  This is exactly why we need institutions like The Public Theater, to produce and partake in such adventures in story-telling that fall outside of the norm and challenge our senses while addressing us intelligently with social commentary, especially during a time of such conflict as we are experiencing now.  There are too many Jim Trewitts to deal with at the helm of our government at the moment, and hopefully, just like Norris, history will not be kind to them.

THE LOW ROADWritten by Bruce Norris Directed by Michael Greif Featuring Tessa Albertson, Max Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Daniel Davis, Crystal A. Dickinson, Gopal Divan, Harriet Harris, Jack Hatcher, Chukwudi Iwuji, Johnny Newcomb, Chris Perfetti, Susanna
THE LOW ROAD Written by Bruce Norris Directed by Michael Greif Featuring Tessa Albertson, Max Baker, Kevin Chamberlin, Daniel Davis, Crystal A. Dickinson, Gopal Divan, Harriet Harris, Jack Hatcher, Chukwudi Iwuji, Johnny Newcomb, Chris Perfetti, Susannah Perkins, Richard Poe, Dave Quay, Aaron Ray, Joseph Soeder, and Danny Wolohan. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

More in Off Broadway

Girl From The North Country

Bob Dylan’s Songbook Girl From The North Country Finds Cast

Suzanna BowlingJuly 19, 2018
George Salazar

Be More Chill’s Michael In the Bathroom George Salazar

Suzanna BowlingJuly 18, 2018
Shane Baker, Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson

He Says: Tevye Served Raw

Jeffery SegalJuly 18, 2018
Joe Tracz, Joe Iconis

Meet Be More Chill’s Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz

Suzanna BowlingJuly 17, 2018
Tom Hoefner

Meet The Playwrights of NY SummerFest: Tom Hoefner Brings a Comic Look to The Rapture

Suzanna BowlingJuly 17, 2018
Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, Shane Baker

Tevye Served Raw” Is A Treat for “Fiddler on the Roof” Fans, And Others

Neha KashyapJuly 16, 2018
Pamela Scott

Meet The Playwrights of NY SummerFest: Pamela Scott Has Not One But Two Plays in Festivals

Suzanna BowlingJuly 16, 2018
Rebecca Aparicio

Pedro Pan Playwright Rebecca Aparicio Discusses Their Developmental Journey

Jeffery SegalJuly 15, 2018
Julian Silva, Taylor Caldwell, Gregory Diaz IV

Straight From NYMF: Pedro Pan Flies at NYMF

Jeffery SegalJuly 15, 2018