Brilliance Out of the “Box”

Review: “The Shadow Box” at the Gene Frankel Theatre

By lead-reviewer Anthony J. Piccione

In 1977, playwright Michael Cristofer wrote a play about a topic that is as grim as it gets, but is inevitably something that all of us will one day have personal experience with. From the Pulitzer Prize for Drama to the Tony Award for Best Play, it was widely acclaimed at the time of its release. Yet for all its success, it strangely hasn’t been produced in NYC since the early 1980s. Yet this winter, in what may be their best production I’ve seen yet, Regeneration Theatre mounted a heartbreakingly emotional production of The Shadow Box at the intimate Gene Frankel Theatre.

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Centered around three different individuals with different backgrounds, each of the stories explored shares on thing in common: They all focus on the terminal illness that these characters are suffering from, and how their loved ones are dealing with it. It’s a theme that is very relatable and handled with intimate care and compelling detail in the script, and if you somehow are among the lucky few who haven’t, this play will give you an idea of how difficult it can be, both to confront memories of the past and the inevitability of what’s coming in the future, when you know in the present that someone you are close with is near death. As I’m writing this review, days after having reflected on it, it’s a rare drama that’s still getting me thinking about the issue of human mortality.

Performed by a remarkably talented cast – a bulk of which happen to be regulars in Regeneration Theatre’s troupe – this production’s cast fully commits, and delivers beautifully nuanced and emotional performances that nearly left me on the verge of tears. Having attended a number of their productions in the past, this may well be their best production yet that I’ve seen. (Or at the very least, it’s on par with their powerful performance of As Is in 2018.) It was one of those frustrating situations, as a reviewer, because there wasn’t a single performance that stood out as being less than excellent.

By the end of the play, it is hard not to be left thinking about the universal themes that this heartbreaking drama explores. Judging by the standing ovation that it received at the performance I attended, where it was a sold-out crowd, it seems most others are in agreement that this is a thought-provoking drama that was worth reviving, arguably more so than the many musicals and Shakespearean plays that are constantly re-produced on a regular basis. It’s a shame that it took this long for it to once again receive the recognition it deserves in NYC.

THE SHADOW BOX

“The Shadow Box” stars Jon Spano, Leonard W. Rose, Nikole Marone, Robert Maisonett, Cameron Tharma, Nicole, Greevy, Jenne Vath & Anita Daswani.

“The Shadow Box” was written by Michael Cristofer and directed by Marcus Gualberto, featuring stage manager/assistant director Allison Hohman, set designer Samantha Cancellarich, lighting designer Domino Mannheim, fight coordinator Cameron Tharma.

“The Shadow Box” – presented by Regeneration Theatre – ended its run at the Gene Frankel Theatre on February 9th.

 

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