Emerging Artists Theatre
By Kevin Bofsky


Intar 53 Theatre, February 4 - 22, 2004

Directed by Derek Jamison
Lighting Design -- Eric Chase
Costume Design -- Ellen Reilly
Set Design -- Carter Inskeep
Set Construction -- Ryan Hilliard
Sound Design -- Desmond Dutcher
Sound Coordination -- Carols Boll
Stage Management -- Andrew Ronan
Assistant Stage Management -- Emily Fishbain
Assistant Lighting Design & Lighting Board Op -- Michael Canfora
Cover Design -- Brett Douglas
Publicity -- Tim Haskell at Publicity Outfitters


It is 1969. Soldiers are going to Vietnam, astronauts are landing on the moon, and in Claymont, Delaware, Neil Greenglass' high school art project is about to shake up his small town.  This is the premise of CLAYMONT, Kevin Brofsky's coming-of-age drama.  At the heart of the piece, however, is not the political or cultural climate of the times or the effect of Neil's art project on his conservative town, but a love story.

The love story is twofold, and more sweet, innocent and feeling-infused than any other I've seen in, well, forever.  The actual love story revolves around Neil's crush on the draft-dodging, radical-thinking Dallas, an older man (of 21) who is temporarily crashing in Neil's basement.  But more than that, CLAYMONT is about our love for a particular time in our lives, and for life itself.  Whether or not we came of age in the '60s, Brofsky brings us all back to a time when we were innocent, hopeful and longing to experience the world.  The sweet, innocent era of crushes (remember those?), the small, traditional town that you never really felt a part of because you were smart, an artist, gay or, oh hell, a democrat even, and you, listening to the radio, imagined the great world all before you -- this is the world of Neil Greenglass.

Every aspect of the production played into this -- lights, music, news reports, and small, incidental moments, like Dallas undressing for bed in the half-light while listening to the radio, all evoked spring and summer past.  Most evocative is Jason Hare's performance.  Hare is perfect as Neil Greenglass, combining the innocence, heart and vulnerability of youth with its strength and determination as well.  Glory Gallo also came on strong as Neil's mother, Shayna.  A little off-putting at first, her subtle come down reminded me that we were all Neils once, and by the end, Gallo's Shayna was so nuanced and serene that you couldn't help admire her dramatic range.

The weak points of the production came with the depiction of Sharon, Dallas' ex-girlfriend, played by Aimee Howard, and, to a lesser extent, Dolores, the Greenglass' loudmouthed next door neighbor and Dallas's mother, played by Wynne Anders.  The character of Sharon is not especially well-drawn. What is drawn are her stereotypical small-town-girl, old-fashioned beliefs about marriage.  Knowing what we know and how we live now, these beliefs sound funny -- provoking laughter from the audience.  The actor, however, played it in a very serious and dramatic fashion.  Did Director Jamison intend for us to laugh at these antiquated notions?  And especially given Sharon's seriousness about a now ridiculous p.o.v.? Did Brofsky?  If so, it's completely inconsistent with the earnest feel of the rest of piece.

As for Dolores, I first thought her comic, boisterous storytelling and shotgun wedding antics (to save her son from the draft) incongruous with her dramatic moments -- like reminiscing about a brother killed in WWII in a plea to save Dallas from the same fate in Vietnam -- rather than revelatory.  That is, until I realized that this character used over-the-top comedy and powerhouse strength as salve to the tragic and uncontrollable elements of life.  What is incongruous, though, is the overplaying of this already boisterous character, especially in relation to the quiet, understated performance of Jacqueline Barsh as Neil's Grandma.  Such night-and-day personalities didn't provide balance, as perhaps intended, but threw the piece off-kilter, and in fact, into a state of genre-confusion at times.

Regardless, sweet and sentimental without being saccharin, CLAYMONT is a portrait of who we were, no matter who are now, where we grew up and when.

- Kate Kolendo -

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