Posted in drama, family drama, family secrets, funny-sad, James Wesley, molestation, poignant, secrets

Secrets Haunt in "Unbroken Cirlcle"

Aunt June (Eve Plumb) finally gets to read the will as the family looks on.
Edna (Anika Larsen), Patti (Juli Wesley), Bobby (James Wesley) and Ruby (Suzanna Hay) Photo by Bill Selby.

There is no such thing as a well-kept secret. In fact the secrets the family in “Unbroken Circle,” at St. Luke’s Theatre in an open run every Wednesday, have done a good deal of harm.

Aunt June (Eve Plumb), Cheryl (Lori Hammel), Bobby (James Wesley) and Ruby (Suzanna Hay) sit around the table trying to enjoy a family meal. Photo by Bill Selby.

James Wesley, who also stars as Bobby, has written a darkly comic, poignantly gripping play about a family troubled by their past. “Unbroken Circle” is moving, and unpredictable.

The family gathers after burying Travis, the father and grandfather that none of them, except perhaps Aunt June (Eve Plumb) much misses. In fact, his demise frees his wife Ruby (Suzanna Hay) of many burdens of care. Her daughter, Edna (Anika Larsen) comes back home for the first time since she ran away at sixteen. Bobby (James Wesley), her twin, can unburden himself of a life of failure and misery too.

Husband and wife Cheryl (Lori Hammel), Bobby (James Wesley) confront their daughter, Patti (Juli Wesley). Photo by Bill Selby.

Eve Plumb is very fine as the cynically pious June. Suzanna Hay stands out as the tough and  
protective Ruby. James Wesley is brilliant as the defeated Bobby. Lori Hammel is excellent as his wife Cheryl, as is Anika Larsen as the prodigal sister. The youngsters, Stacey Bone-Gleason as Cathy, who has just come of age, and Juli Wesley as the precocious and clever Patti, give memorable performances. In short, the ensemble are superb.

“Unbroken Circle” is an engaging, entertaining and touching drama about a family overcoming their troubled past. The direction by Jason St. Little and the sets by Josh Iacovelli make the most of the small space in which the play is staged. 

For more information, schedule, and tickets for “Unbroken Circle,” please visit

Posted in couples, dark comedy drama, David Schwimmer, Detroit, funny-sad, John Cullum, Lisa D'Amour, neighbors

Just Being Neighborly in "Detroit"

Neighbors used to be more than just the folks who live next door. They were the people with whom we shared a community, a way of life, a neighborhood.

As Lisa D’Amour’s “Detroit,” at Playwrights Horizons through October 28th, begins, the welcome mat is extended in that old-fashioned neighborly way.

John Cullum in “Detroit” in a photo by Jeremy Daniel. 

Ben (David Schwimmer) and Mary (Amy Ryan) invite the young couple who’ve moved in next door for a barbeque. Thanks to the friendship they develop with Ken (Darren Pettie) and Sharon (Sarah Sokolovic), their lives seem a little less lonely. Suburbia is an isolating environment, and the one we visit in “Detroit,” thanks to the inspired set designs by Louisa Thompson, is nearly desolate.

Sarah Sokolovic, Darren Pettie, Amy Ryan  & David Schwimmer in a scene from “Detroit.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Ken and Sharon are open about their lives and their addictions.  Ben, recently laid off, is building a website for the business he wants to start. Sharon works in a call center. The couples engage with each other, sharing their life stories as neighbors do, over the next several months.

But there is a dark side to each of them. Darren Pettie is especially creepy showing off his while Amy Ryan’s Mary is so fragile that she can barely open the sliding door to the porch.  John Cullum’s Frank comes in like a “deus ex machina” to tie up the loose ends for us, but by then, the damage has been done.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel.  Darren Pettie, Amy Ryan, David Schwimmer & Sarah Sokolovic.

The writing in “Detroit” is natural. The acting is uniformly excellent. Bring some chips, and join the party.

For more information about “Detroit,” visit

Posted in 2-hander, A Chamber Opera, absurdist, chamber music, funny-sad, music, singing, The Hunchback Variations

The intersection of Beethoven and Quasimodo is Chekhov

Is it only the idealists among us who search for the unattainable? Can the melancholic also pursue it?

The premise in “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera,” at 59E59 Theaters through July 1st, is a doomed collaboration between Ludwig von Beethoven (George Andrew Wolff) and Quasimodo (Larry Adams) to find a sound that will fulfill a stage direction in Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

Quasimodo and Beethoven, both deaf and more than a touch ornery, are holding a series of panel discussions on the inevitable failure of their project. The attempt to create “the Impossible, Mysterious Sound” and “the Effects on Love and Friendship of Rehearsing the Creation of the Impossible and Mysterious Sound” are the subject for “The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera.” The sound is “impossible” because it is one of nostalgia for something lost or missing or not existent. Beethoven and Quasimodo are trying to find something that eludes the senses.

Mickle Maher, an original member of Chicago’s Theater Oobleck which brought the musical play east, adapted the chamber opera from his eccentric little play “The Hunchback Variations.” His libretto is set to Mark Messing’s score for cello (played by Paul Ghica) and piano (Christopher Sargent.)

Adams and Wolff both have a wry demeanor and pleasant voices. They tell the tale well, revealing the details of the relationship between Quasimodo and Beethoven over the course of eleven “variations.”

Quasimodo asks, “Where do we put the happiness that has not been forged?… Where is the room for keeping all the nothings?” Beethoven responds “I would like to think that such a room exists.”

For a schedule of performances, visit To learn more about the producing company, Theater Oobleck, visit