Vanguard Theatre Group
By DAVID VAN VLECK
224 Waverly Place
(212) 868-4444 or www.smarttix.com
September 26 – October 19, 2003
Directed by ROGER DANFORTH
Set and Lighting Designer ROMAN TATAROWICZ
Costume Designer JENNY MANNIS
Sound Designer ANTONIO GARFIAS
Stage Manager LLOYD DAVIS, JR.
Press Representation KAREN GRECO ENTERTAINMENT, CASEY SIEGEL
George – Guy Boyd
Frank – Peter Maloney
Phil – Robert LuPone
Mitch – Lee Wilkof
Mel – Michael Cullen
Set in a New Jersey bar during the Reagan era, FOUR BEERS introduces us to four guys who have come together for Monday night football only to find a broken television. Their alternative entertainment for the evening, talking to one another, ignites conversation that is simultaneously aggressively in-your-face and psychically subtle.
Walking that fine line between bawdy boys night out and male bonding seems a simple task as handled by David Van Vleck in this, his first play. In walking the line, he does write for types, but they, ultimately, are not the cookie-cutter working class guys we expect them to be. Individually, they are a boisterous and blustery mechanic (Guy Boyd), a timid dry cleaner (Peter Maloney), the barber who aims to please (Lee Wilkof) and the philosophical film developer (Robert LuPone). As a group, they have missed the great mutual fund boom of the 1980’s, and each man now finds himself nearing retirement age without the means to retire. Add to the mix an ongoing discussion about infidelity, suspected of one wife, fantasized by one of the guys, committed by another, and it is soon clear that these four have been well served by the usual diversion of Monday night football games.
About two-thirds into FOUR BEERS a fifth man enters the mix to stir things up. This guy, Mel, a recent widower, enters the bar without his wallet and quickly agrees to let the four regulars treat him to rye and steak as he intermittently cries on their shoulders and shoots the breeze. His seemingly innocuous conversation inadvertently leaves the others open and exposed. Seemingly the most unfortunate at the table, Mel is actually the most well to do. He, a postal worker, has an early retirement, mutual fund gains and his late wife’s insurance money to look forward to.
The actors, when teamed with the eerily quiet set, that, while fully resembling a bar does not sound like one, and the well-paced direction (Roger Danforth) do the best to make these men real. They very much succeed, though Guy Boyd’s rowdy George could have used a setting somewhere in between bellowing and bellowing even louder.
Not a perfect play, but quite well constructed, and in full possession of the fluidity and character development required, FOUR BEERS is respectable diversion.
- Kessa De Santis -