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Off Broadway

He Says: The Violin: Failing to Sew Lives Back Together

He Says: The Violin: Failing to Sew Lives Back Together

“Life is about choices”, so says Gio, the gentleman tailor at the center of this drama. And in The Violin, for the most part, good choices have been made by Dan McCormick (The Morons) who wrote this fascinating tale of brotherly and pseudo-paternal love that plays out in his tailor shop on Avenue A in the East Village of Manhattan. Directed by Joseph Discher (Theatreworks’ Red), the engaging and slightly predictable story of characters that are so desperate for some sort of salvation play out with an authentic air and convincing attachment. It’s fairly clever and well put together, much like Gio’s supposed gift of mending other people’s torn clothes. It’s just a shame that Gio has a harder time stitching these two brothers’ lives back together again.

Peter Bradbury, Robert LuPone

Peter Bradbury, Robert LuPone Photo by Carol Rosegg

Gio, portrayed with paternal layers of care, love, and frustrating concern by Robert LuPone (Broadway’s True West) struggles against his aging body repairing clothes for his unseen customers in the tailor shop his late father established many years ago. He’s definitely the father figure to the two young men that can’t seem to stay away even when they find his fatherly role hard to take. Drinking beer and pacing the room, there is the troubled Bobby, played with an edgy aggression of a man struggling with inner genetic demons by the very good Peter Bradbury (Broadway’s King Charles III). He definitely has a strong bond with Gio and even when the moments that don’t ring entirely true poke their head into the beautifully designed space (set: Harry Feiner; costumes: Michael McDonald; lighting: Matthew E. Adelson; sound: Hao Bai), it never feels completely false either. It feels like a father/son dynamic, that is both argumentative and loving.

Kevin Isola, Robert LuPone, Peter Bradbury

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

Terry, devotingly played by Kevin Isola (MTC’s Brooklyn Boy) is the younger brother who is both sweet and kind, while being oddly simple. Bobby explains at one point that he feel out of his bunk bed and has never been the same, something that clearly bothers Bobby, filling him with guilt that it should have been him in the top bunk. That explanation is one of the numerous moments that feels unnecessary and too simplistic to accept, and it is not the only one that maybe could have been left alone, without the need to diagnose. It’s enough that with the murder of these boys’ parents so many years ago, it is clear that Gio is the father figure employed by the two, and that Bobby feels responsible for his challenged younger brother.  Isola’s performance is so wonderful that he causes us to join with his brother in the desire to care for the sweet boy. The complication is that Bobby is ill equipped for the task, and no amount of mentoring by Gio seems to help bring Bobby back to the respectable and solid world he needs or should be in.

Then, as if a tainted gift from God falls into their laps, a very valuable violin has been accidentally left in the back seat of Terry’s gypsy cab. The intoxicated musician has no recollection as to where he lost it, but is desperate to get it back. Valued in the millions of dollars, Bobby sees it as salvation from a life that always seems on the verge of destruction, and naturally Terry follows his lead. Terry’s character is quite charming, parroting whomever is speaking at the time, especially if it is Gio talking. I never really believed in Gio’s response to this scenario, no matter how desperate and unfulfilled his life is presented to be. But the three formulate a plan that they hope will save them from the dark future they see before them.

The performances are all excellent and relatable, even when they veer into the implausible. We are engaged and sweetly pulled into their lives and struggles, even as the play straddles the simple and predictable. I can’t say that I was moved to tears by The Violin as some patrons around me were, but the direction and the pace never faltered until the touching (and slightly not surprising) finale. Gio can’t mend these boy’s lives as well as he mends a pair of pants, but he certainly wants to pull us into his attempt at fatherhood.

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Off Broadway

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 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

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