We all felt displaced after 9/11. Not that we had left our home, but that our home had left us, had stopped being what we knew and recognized. A sense of, “Where am I,” “What happened to my city, my “backyard,”” permeated the streets. It’s why we were all connecting so much with each other. Literally reaching arms and hands out to one another asking, “You okay? You okay?”
Soon after 9/11 Isle of Shoals’ Artistic Director Lance Hewett and award-winning playwright and composer Bryan Williams sat down to write what would eventually become the musical OCCUPATION: DRAGONSLAYER. DRAGONSLAYER would later be commissioned by The Public Theatre and premiere in 2002 at Altered Stages.
Now as our luck would have it, Isle of Shoals has brought back OCCUPATION: DRAGONSLAYER for the 15th anniversary of 9/11. DRAGONSLAYER is set in a diner in lower Manhattan close to Ground Zero on Christmas Eve, one year and one season after the tragedy. Today is the last day for the diner. It, and most of lower Manhattan, have been bought out by a real estate mogul named Damon Slade. A despicable, money mongering Trump-like character. Written in 2002 who would know that that character would 15 years later be a Presidential nominee? How things do change with time. 15 years later there is a memorial on the site where rubble and dust once lay. We are all 15 years older: some now parents, grandparents, married, single again. Our lives taking the twists and turns, the curve balls that life offers. The one thing that has not changed is our clear remembrance of that day and the days that followed. Of how we reached out to one another, how being a New Yorker became everything, our badge of honor, our kinship, and none us forgot our gratitude and pride we felt for our first responders.
Directed so beautifully by Stephen Ryan, who was a performer in the original production, DRAGONSLAYER is about that pride, that love, that kinship. And that magic. Our collectiveness as people, as New Yorkers, was magical.
On this night, the last night of the diner, patrons have all come to say good-bye and share one last meal together, a last moment of kinship, of remembrance of those who were lost, those who survived, those you ran in, and those who worked their way through the rubble – lifting, moving pieces of our towers in hopes of finding survivors. Among the regulars are two who are new to the diner. One of magic and hope, and one – well, the Slade character. The man who bought the building and thus the diner. The person who is shutting the doors on this place and displacing its occupants.
The songs are beautiful, poignant and funny. The cast – a solid ensemble. A few performers who stood out for this reviewer among an outstanding cast are, Cait Kelly as Jenny the waitress hoping to be an actress and John Mervini as Damon Slade. Kelly’s rendition of Abscene, a haunting song of loss, is spot on. And Mervini’s Slade is slime personified. He is having so much fun being so bad you can’t help but love him. And Mervini’s and Kelly’s song, Bright Lights, Big City, is BOOM! Microphone dropping done, done and more done!
Thank you Isle of Shoals for bringing back this gem of a musical.
Directed by Stephen Ryan
Featuring: Judi Polson (Kinsey) along with Ruby Spryte Balsamo, Erin Clancy-Balsamo, Kimberly Bello, Paul Chamberlain, Benjamin Errig, Theodore Errig, Lisa Gwasda, Cait Kelly, Arthur Lundquist, John Mervini, Lindsey Morgan, Kevin F. Rogers, Cecilia Vaicels, Steve Walsh, and Steffen Whorton.
Set and lighting design are by Mitchell Ost and costume design is by Janet Goldberg.
Isle of Shoals Productions presents OCCUPATION: DRAGONSLAYER, A Musical Tale of 9/11, at The Robert Moss Theater (440 Lafayette Street – between Astor Place and East 4th Street). Limited engagement through September 25th
Tickets are $18 for the general audience, $15 for seniors and students, and can be purchased at occupation.brownpapertickets.com or by calling (800) 838-3006.
OCCUPATION: DRAGONSLAYER running through September 23rd. Performances: Thursdays, September 8, 15, and 22 at 8pm; Fridays, September 9, 16, and 23 at 8pm; Saturdays, September 10 at 8pm, Sept 17 and 24 at 2pm and 8pm; Sundays, September 11, 18, and 25 at 3pm; Monday, September 19 at 8pm; and Wednesday, September 14 at 8pm.
Isle of Shoals Productions, Inc. is a non-profit theatre group dedicated to joining drama and music in innovative ways by developing, producing and touring original shows and creating a platform for coproductions with other producers and presenters. For more information, visit www.isleofshoals.org www.dragonslayermusical.com