Thursday, November 21, 2013

Regular Singing ***

The fourth and final installment in Richard Nelson's saga about the Apple family of Rhinebeck, New York brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. I confess that I approached this one with a bit of trepidation, because, by the end of the third play, the pleasure of the Apple family's company was wearing a bit thin for me. In addition, two members of the superb original cast (Shuler Hensley and J. Smith-Cameron) were unavailable for the final play and I was uncomfortable about seeing new actors in their roles. Like the three previous plays, the action or, more accurately, the conversation is set on a day significant for American history. "That Hopey Changey Thing" was set on Election Night 2010; "Sweet and Sad" on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and "Sorry"on Election Day 2012. (I suggest you use the search box near the top right to read my reviews of the three previous plays.) This time the occasion is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. The Apple siblings -- Barbara (Maryann Plunkett), a spinster schoolteacher; Marian (Laila Robins), also a teacher, whose marriage collapsed after her daughter's suicide and who now lives with Barbara; Jane (Sally Murphy, replacing Smith-Cameron), a writer who has recently moved to Rhinebeck with partner Tim (Stephen Kunken, replacing Hensley), an actor/waiter; and Richard (Jay O. Sanders), an attorney who has fled his failed marriage in New York for a job in the Cuomo administration in Albany -- and their Uncle Benjamin (John Devries), a former actor whose failing memory has landed him in an assisted living home, have gathered at Barbara's house, where Marian's ex-husband Adam lies dying upstairs. As they go over Adam's detailed plans for his funeral, they discuss many things, from the state of the country to their personal demons. There is no action in the usual sense, but there are occasional moments of great pathos. Murphy seemed a bit young to play Jane and was barely audible at times. Kunken, always a fine actor, fit in well as Tim. The four returning actors are as excellent as we have come to expect. It was a real pleasure to spend time with them again. Nelson as director serves his own material well. For one of the Public Theater's Lab productions, the modest set and costumes by Susan Hilferty are commensurate with the low ticket price. At one hour, 50 minutes without intermission, the play could use some judicious trimming.

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