“Lucky me,” I was thinking to myself once again as I sat in the NJ Repertory Theatre in Long Branch, because this theatre is such a find. Twenty minutes before show time were enough to quietly marvel at the set – a seemingly fully-functional kitchen, a dead ringer for the ones audience members may have just left on their way to a play about to start. It reminded me how much and varied artistry it takes to bring the mere words of a script to life which must be why they call it – a production.
As it turns out, in “Lucky Me” the set plays a major part.
So do the actors, of course, with a dyspeptic, comedic Dan Grimaldi at the center of the action playing the part of Leo, by turns predictable and unpredictable, but always excruciatingly entertaining. He fills us with doubt – about whether he actually perceives the things he says he does and about whether he’s actually devoid of the sense he acts as if he doesn’t have. He delivers that rare level of acting that makes a script even more interesting than it may be. Not only is the actor acting but so may be the character he portrays. This keeps the audience on its toes and moves the action along.
Wendy Peace as Sara is also hiding something. She’s made her peace with events we witness bordering upon the comically supernatural, which is where the set comes into play. But there is also a bigger reality she is not talking about, which may explain her very convincing hesitancy about well… everything, including Michael Irvin Pollard as Tom, smitten and persistent, in spite of everything. He is the only character in the play without a sense of foreboding. We wonder whether his job as a TSA Agent has inured him to worrisome signals, which gives us a sense of foreboding for our own lives outside of the theatre, if he’s typical.
Mark Light-Orr as Yuri, the young landlord, gives dimension to what in other hands would be a one-dimensional role. We like him and we like his accent, and we’re thankful to him for helping to unravel the mystery in such dramatic fashion.
Fireworks, failing lights, and an unbelievably realistic rainstorm make us bow to set designer Jessica Parks, lighting designer Jill Nagle and sound designer Merek Royce Press.
Director SuzAnne Barabas draws impressive performances from an excellent cast. The interaction between the actors carries the day. I’ve also resolved to arrive 20 minutes early for every upcoming performance to let the set begin the play before the play begins.
Show runs through August 31. Performances: Thursdays, Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 3pm & 8pm; Sundays at 2pm and selected Sundays at 7pm.
Written by Robert Caisley; Directed by Suz Anne Barabas.
Cast: Dan Grimaldi as Leo; Mark Light-Orr as Yuri; Wendy Peace as Sara; Michael Irvin Pollard as Tom.
Set Design by Jessica Parks, Lighting Design by Jill Nagle, Sound Design by Merek Royce Press,
Costume Design by Patricia E. Doherty, Properties by Jessica Parks, Technical Director, Michael “Rusty” Carroll, Stage Manager, Jennifer Tardibuono