By Amy M. Frateo
Lynn Navarra writes in the old ways. There is something to be said for that, on an academic level, but sadly audiences need to be prepared for “classic’ style drama.
Her play, The Sandman, depicts the story of an immigrant family from Ireland who try to make their way in the world by running a bar won with gambling money. Organized crime and gangs of the area make that almost impossible. The play sports a cast of nearly a dozen and runs in the neighborhood of two and a half hours with a dozen scenes in Act II.
Sound like it came from the Williams, Miller, O’Neill era? Wrong. This piece takes places in the late 70s and was written recent enough to be a world premiere.
On the praiseworthy side, it’s well-written, very well-acted and directed, and had a realistic and well-designed set. Ken Coughlin, who directed, designed, and starred in the play did a masterful job in all his facets. His Tommy, the Irish bartender, sported a realistic brogue, strong stage presence and consistency of emotion. He moved his cast well across the expansive John Cullum stage of the ATA, and gave us a realistic and well-detailed bar to hang-out in. However, technical glitches made for long light changes, missed or messed cues, and sometimes too much light thus revealing what we weren’t supposed to see.
No lack of praise goes to Michael Bordwell and Valerie O’Hara, who gave truly standout performances as Paul, the street-smart cop-with-the-heart-of-gold and Peggy, a down-and-out actress who we learn wasn’t a has-been as much as a never-got-there. Bordwell has a powerful stage presence that easily transformed into that of a fearless law officer in a time when danger was everywhere; and the real emotion of O’Hara plus inspired touches of staging (a move with a wine glass gave us a chilling foreshadow) made her subplot worthy of its own play. [See an upcoming article on her and Coughlin in DramaQueens.wordpress].
Ms. Navarra would have been better served liberally cutting and combining before this run or saving this play for the big budget theatre or maybe making it a screenplay where even an austere camera budget could have accommodated the massive effort.
With that in mind, Mr. Coughlin is a brave man and glitches aside, did an excellent job.