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God and Mr. Smith
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God and Mr. Smith

A review by Roberta Zlokower
March 20, 2003

Kaleidoscope Theater Company, Producers
www.kaleidoscopetheatre.org

The Mint Space
311 West 43rd Street
NY, NY

March 14 – April 6, 2003

Written by Travis Baker
Directed by Marshall Mays
Scenic Design by Scott Aronow
Stage Manager, Christopher Bamonte
Lighting Design, Michael K. Berelson
Costume Design, Anthony Catanzaro
Sound Design, William Cusick

Cast (order of appearance): Najia Said, Jim Wisniewski, Daryl Lathon, Lucy McMichael, Birgit Darby, Dan Snow, Michael Nathanson, Todd Allen Durkin, Donna Heffernan

Publicity: Joe Trentacosta, Springer/Chicoine
joe@springchicpr.com

Kaleidoscope Theatre Company, a member of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, is in the midst of its fourth season. This production of God & Mr. Smith is the second time this play has been mounted. Marshall Mays, Artistic Director, deserves kudos for his successful efforts in casting and supervising the highly creative stage and lighting design, in a small, upstairs theatre, in Times Square, called The Mint Space. With a futuristic, and somewhat surreal theme, these versatile actors, who can assume more than one role with ease, keep the audience entertained, in the various communications, antics, and mishaps, around the theme of a computerized nightmare.

Jim Wisniewski, as star and as an endearing husband, a would-be lover, a rejected son, and a desperate spokesperson for the anonymous masses, is riveting and riotous. When all the computers in the world lose his identity, his wife and family disintegrate; a cold, uptight bureaucracy throws him out (except for the warm, not too bright, but sexy and effervescent secretary, Najia Said, as Steph), and, in a campy way, Jim, as John Smith, searches for a human connection.

The human connections, following the bizarre, dysfunctional scene with John's parents (who accuse him of underground drug trade), begin in the form of a relationship with Steph, watching her play Ophelia, in an avant garde Hamlet, sharing drinks in a dark club, watching the moon, and almost becoming lovers. The elusive briefcase, replete with personal documents, ruins this tryst. Another connection arrives with an alcoholic mailman, who no longer has mail, due to the computerization of society. The scene in the greasy diner was somewhat overdone, a fight over inedible food, with the chef turned into a human butcher, waving a spatula turned weapon. I did not see the need for this scene, which turned picaresque fantasy into discomfort and violence. Yet, the actors held their own, and the mailman was finally entertained.

Lucy McMichael, as Dr. Berger, Steph's witchy boss, and as John's mother, Henny, was perfectly cast and hilarious in character. Najia Said was sensational as Steph, who had an endearing and adorable stage voice, much like the old film characters, and Daryl Lathon, as Andy, Steph's one-man, office fan club, and as an old, grizzled woman, had everything right in his sensitive office role and later stage presence. Todd Allen Durkin, as the mailman, turned savior, who had a pivotal and metaphysical role, was dynamite -- postman turned poet. However, the star and constant presence, Jim Wisniewski, as John Smith and lost soul, is an actor to watch. As in Event Horizon, he has a knack for waxing philosophical, as well as for assuming a very unassuming and earthy, vulnerable role. Wisniewski is a versatile, dynamic, and highly capable actor. Kudos to Travis Baker for this memorable play and to Marshall Mays for his excellent direction.

God & Mr. Smith will be presented through April 6, 2003. Check the above Website for details.

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(l-r) Lucy McMichael, Daryl Lathon, Michael Nathanson, Brigit Darby, Todd Allen Durkin (seated), Travis Baker (Playwright), Jim Wisniewski (seated), Dan Snow, Najla Said, Marshall Mays (Director)

p032003003.jpeg

Todd Allen Durkin & Jim Wisniewski

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net