Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: Good Today, Terror Tomorrow

by Michael Block

Even though a play can be written a time ago and about something so specific, it manages to find a way to be relevant to modern situations. Change the names and places with relevant names in our current political climate and Good becomes terrifyingly familiar. Written by C.P. Taylor and presented as part of PTP/NYC's 30th Anniversary, Good is a story of the morals and humanity of one good man through the lens of Hitler Germany.
Grappling with a musical neurosis, family woes, and the Nazi uprising, a man tries to just be good. Taylor's Good is a strikingly humorous drama that calls attention to politics, propaganda, and the problematic uprising of an egomaniacal figure into power. Directed by Jim Petosa, Good captures a specific time while forecasting a future. Petosa's vision for Good was clean and precise. His staging was fluid with a theatrical sensibility. He infused humor in order to escape being bogged down by the heaviness of the backdrop. This also allowed the weight to settle and unravel in remarkable fashion. With such a specific setting, Petosa's company could have explored dialect but instead smartly went with a neutral diction. It allowed the articulation of Taylor's text to be heard. The one blaring exception was Noah Berman's non-Hitler character, Bok. And it's a bummer as his scene with John Halder contained some of the most profound dialogue. Talk about parallels to Trumpmania!
photo by Stan Barouh
Good had a precise aesthetic in storytelling. The directorial vocabulary that Petosa brought was consistent. He slammed his scenes into one another with only a light shift. As much as you'd desire a sound cue from sound designer Seth Clayton, it would have interfered with the music from Halder's mind. The set from Mark Evancho was simply stated. The symmetrical aesthetic was rarely rearranged as the majority of the company found themselves parked on the benches on the outskirts, helping Petosa's crisp staging. At first, the giant red cube was a bit jarring with the color being so predominant and slightly blocking the piano, whose importance was minimized. It's clear why the color was what it was but had it not been as striking, it may have been a tad more visually pleasing.
PTP/NYC's season features two tour-de-force roles for the central characters. Good was lead by Michael Kaye with a boundless performance. As John Halder, Kaye eased from dialogue to direct address without missing a beat. Kaye is endearing on stage, and you truly believe him to be a good person, despite the circumstances he finds himself in. As the lone actor who must connect with every other individual, Kaye had innate chemistry. The strongest being with Tim Spears' Maurice. There were moments the pair could easily finish each other's sentences. As Maurice, Spears was colorful yet grounded in reality. The playful nature of the character and staging allowed Spears to use the set as a playground, jumping off of the blocks and piano. When it came to love, Taylor offered three perspectives through maternal in Judith Chaffee's mother, love in Valerie Leonard's Helen, and lust in Caitlin Rose Duffy's Anne. Each circumstance hit Halder in a different way yet he wanted to do right by each, even if it meant hurting himself. For those familiar with Mel Brooks’ The Producers, imagine that version of Adolf Hitler present. That’s exactly what Noah Berman delivered. It was parody yet honest.
Good was not just good, it was great. PTP/NYC continues to provide stimulating, through-provoking theater.