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Friday, February 22, 2013

Capital Rep’s "November"

From the Vault Dept.: As Albany’s Capital Repertory Company prepares to present another premiere, this of the musical Single Girls Guide (book by Gordon Greenberg, music and lyrics by Tommy Newman, running March 5-30), I dug from the archives my review (and wisp of a preview) of a not-by-David-Mamet November that crossed the Capital Rep boards twenty-goddamn-seven years ago. Time to put me out to pasture, don’t you think?


A WRITER’S MIND is like an aspirin bottle. There’s an absorbent layer that sits over a handful of curatives freely offered, or at least for a modest fee.

Don Nigro
But that cotton wool absorbs everything: If the writer is not selective about the information  received, he can wind up with a head full of other people’s ideas.

This is especially dangerous when the writer seeks to interpret his surroundings in terms of the characters who inhabit those surroundings. There are characters and conflicts so germane to American culture that they have gone from archetype to cliché. That process was intensified by the easy escape and accessibility of movies; with television humming hypnotically in every household, cliché is in danger of being confused with culture.

Don Nigro, author of Capital Rep’s world-premiere play November, may have assimilated more mass-produced drama than is good for his creative spirit. He brings nothing new to the situations in which his characters find themselves, which is fine: there are only so many plots available to anyone and they should be recycled. But that is when good characterization is needed to provide the necessary new illuminations.

Bedridden Aunt Liz, for example, comes out of Mary Boland, a ‘30s-era actress whose property was forever under siege by the unscrupulous. Which brings us to the unscrupulous Rooks, a villain in the Edward Arnold tradition. Nothing redeems this swine. The character parts are similarly engendered: the two elderly eccentrics in the home are Mischa Auer and Spring Byington. (And why must a daft old tart always be a foreigner? The point of George Marshall’s film of Destry Rides Again was to gibe such clichés to death – and people now take the movie seriously!)

Mary Fogarty and Jane Welch
The weakness of the material accounts for much of its appeal: it is a heart-on-the-sleeve essay of untrammeled pathos. Each of the characters is but a portion of a sentimental whole, and there is a quick appeal about that. Conflicts are clearly designed and guaranteed to get your dander up. Virtue will triumph; evildoers are punished.

This is the stuff of Ten Nights in a Bar Room, where a moral purpose is the play’s justification; it seems out of place in November, a play that also represents itself as part of a multivolume family saga.

The production itself shows off Capital Rep at its best. Making the most of the material are Mary Fogarty as Aunt Liz; her family comprises Jane Welch, Nicola Sheara, Christopher Wynkoop and Thomas Schall. Special credit goes to Phyllis Gottung, who has distinguished herself in local community theater productions and is deservedly extending her horizon. Kymberly Dakin is authentic as the much-put-upon nurse, whose especial headache seems to be chasing Sherman Lloyd and Jen Jones.

Gloria Muzio provides sympathetic direction on a cleverly-designed and effective set by Rick Dennis. November continues at the Market Theatre through April 13.

Metroland Magazine, 27 March 1986


November at Capital Rep

“BROADWAY IS ABOUT MONEY, not art,” says playwright Don Nigro, and that makes him all the more happy that a regional, nonprofit group like Capital Repertory Company is premiering his play November. The production, directed by Gloria Munzio, opens at 8 PM Saturday and runs through April 13. It was foreshadowed last season by a reading from an earlier draft during the New Play Reading Festival.

November has as its subject the concerns of the elderly, especially octogenarian Aunt Liz, now in an Ohio nursing home. Interestingly, this is part of a series of plays that depict the Pendragon family in the Ohio town of Arkham. The four elderly sisters who appear in November (set in 1980) will be portrayed as younger women in an as-yet unfinished work.

Nigro is working to create what he calls “a universe of interconnected plays,” and finds
himself influenced by similar tendencies in Faulkner, Yeats, and Joyce.

The nine cast members include Mary Fogarty as Aunt Liz, Jane Welch, Kymberly Dakin, Sherman Lloyd, Thomas Schall, Christopher Wynkoop and Phyllis Gottung.

Tickets are priced from $16 to $10 and are available at the Market Theatre box office and CBO outlets.

Metroland Magazine, 13 March 1986

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