Dreaming of Queen and Love at Dedalus Lounge: Theatre Review

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Dedalus Lounge (@Russ Rowland)

How It’s New York:  Royal Family Productions is a New York company with a growing rep, trying on new things and earning a strong reputation.
How It’s Irish:  Gary Duggan is an Irish playwright, who has been produced in the 1st Irish Festival here, has written for Fair City and has a commission at the Abbey Theatre.

His play runs through January 30th at the Interart Theatre Annex, 500 West 52nd Street, 2nd Floor. Thursday – Saturday 8pm Sunday 6pm; (800) 838-3006, or online.

 
This review was originally published in Irish Examiner USA.

It’s tough to be young, three friends discover.  Youth is a condition to wait out.

 

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Growing Pains

(@Russ Rowland)

Gwen Orel Reviews Dedalus Lounge

Gary Duggan’s Trans-Euro Express was one of my picks for the 1st Irish Festival, 2010 (see our review here).
Dedalus Lounge, which opened Thursday the 12th and runs through the 30th at Interart Theatre Annex, is, and feels like, an earlier play, and I’m less bowled over by it.
But it shares some strengths with Trans-Euro Express: sensitive writing about young people experiencing psychological growing pains, particularly about the confusions, sexual and otherwise, of being a young man.
All too often, the angst of 20-somethings (the script says 30-somethings, but they’re young in any case) are discounted by older critics because, after all, they’ve lived through it themselves, and are inclined to yawn at it.
That’s a shame, because as anybody who watches the CW will know, it’s very hard to get right.
Dedalus Lounge gets it right, and is a must for anybody going through it themselves (youth is a condition to wait out), or who has got through it alive.

The play is named for the Dublin bar where three long-term friends meet before and after Christmas (presumably named for the hero of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).
Darragh (James Kautz) is funny, cocky, self-destructive and, therefore, dangerous.
Down to earth Delphine (Dee Roscioli) has a wild streak, and a sad underbelly, as she deals with the illness and then death of a much loved grandmother.
Danny (Anthony Rapp), who loves them both, tries to keep things together, as he deals with a long-time girlfriend’s departure. He yearns to start a Queen cover band.
The play starts just before Christmas, when Delphine comes in with a bunch of shopping bags.
She’s just been promoted as a manager in the restaurant where she works.
Along the way we get facts about all of their lives and relationships.

One night, without Danny there, Darragh and Delphine get drunk (the actors beautifully get looser with each shot) and go home together. Another time Darragh tells Danny a shocking story about homosexual sex with a stranger, which leads to a moment of bixesual confusion between them.
Delphine’s somewhat involved with a married man we never meet. Her ball-gowned rant about one hell of a bad date, on New Year’s Eve, is the play’s best scene (it would make an audition monologue) and leads to a really terrific song (the songs are by Rapp and Daniel A. Weiss).

There are no Queen songs in the play – apparently copyright was an issue – so there is original music, which is pretty great, and it’s delicious seeing straight-laced Danny suddenly boogie down.  I also learned a lot about Freddie Mercury and bought it all – this is how fans behave.
Freddie’s a hero, not just a pop star, to Danny (though he does add “the songs are cool”).
There is a lot of silent film imagery of Mercury, though, as well as of Beyoncé, and I couldn’t help wondering where the rights to those came from (lighting and projection design by David Bengali).
Director Chris Henry likes to use film, but while it made sense in Trans-Euro Express, which she also directed, since the play itself was about the creation of a music video, here it seemed like overkill.

Presented by Interart Theatre and Royal Family Productions, at Interart Theatre Annex
500 West 52nd Street, 2nd Floor. Thursday – Saturday 8pm Sunday 6pm
(800) 838-3006,
www.brownpapertickets.com
royalfamilyproductions.org

Similarly she uses two very good dancers (Heather Phillips and Curtis Howard) to add to the music video of Danny’s numbers (which occasionally, hilariously, involve the whole cast), and that’s fine, but having the dancers do movement interpretations of what we’ve just seen, when they change the scenery (choreography by JoAnn Henry), distracted and ultimately annoyed me.  Henry has great ideas, but too many of them.  The pulse of this play is the sameness of the set and people and the growing difference in their outlooks as they survive the holidays.

However, Henry does get strong, solid performances from her cast.  Kautz struggled with the accent as Danny, but his vulnerability and humor shone through, and when he tells the audience by now they either hate him or want him (he said it more crudely than that), he’s right.  Rapp plays an audience/authorial stand-in with less to do, but he finds the humor and smarts in his repressed, rock-star wanna be nice guy.  Roscioli is a real find as Delphine, though – she’s funny, dark and compelling.  She hits every moment running, and it’s easy to see why the two men want to warm themselves at her flame.

Dedalus Lounge is a touching play that will stick with you long after the holiday debris has been thrown away.
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Copyright 2012 New York Irish Arts
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