Occasionally the great theater critics from the major New York cultural organs – the Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal – will come to Washington to review important productions playing in our biggest venues: the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, the Shakespeare Theatre.
The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout, in town to see Strange Interlude, became convinced to take a trip out to McLean, VA to catch one of his favorite plays, Side Man, at 1st Stage. “One of the most beautiful “memory plays” of the 20th century”, he wrote.
With all of that riding on it, did he like the Michael Dove-directed production?
He loved it. He – well, let the man speak for himself.
“1st Stage, a four-year-old theater company located in a suburban strip mall not far from Washington, has given it a revival that is no less deserving of comparison to the original New York production.
“For those lucky enough to have seen Edie Falco and Frank Wood in ‘Side Man’ 14 years ago, those will be fighting words, but Lee Mikeska Gardner’s performance as ‘Crazy Terry’ Glimmer, who has been driven to drink by the bland, oblivious indifference of her husband, Gene (Chris Mancusi), a jazzman who comes to life only on the bandstand, is snarlingly true to life. Mr. Mancusi is with her every step of the way. Likewise the five-person supporting cast, all of whom give keenly differentiated performances (I especially liked Jjana Valentiner as Patsy, the roundheeled waitress).
“Michael Dove has directed ‘Side Man’ with fully comprehending exactitude—he must have hung out with a lot of musicians—and Steven Royal’s barroom-and-tenement set exudes the stale air of the scuffler’s life.” Teachout’s full review is here.
You’ve seen the rest of the members of its ensemble: Patrick Bussink, Sun King Davis, and Kevin Hasser. If Teachout, undoubtedly a stranger to the Tyson Corner-area suburb, was able to find 1st Stage, perhaps you might drop by to see what moved him to conclude “1st Stage is well on its way to establishing itself as a significant player on the Washington-area theater scene.”