Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cold Case Catharsis

Cold Case Catharsis

By Tom Wachunas

A Shakespeare quote for the title of a modern play can certainly be effective in defining its tone. It can also be an attention-getting icebreaker when spoken in the opening scene. Such is the case in the premiere of “The Evil That Men Do,” a thrilling new play written by Deborah Fezelle (of Canton, Ohio) and Sherry Yanow (of Springfield, Illinois), performed by the Richard Moore Theatre Company at Theatre 8:15 in Green.

“The evil that men do lives after them…,” says the character, Andrew Brady, a ghost addressing the audience with genuine urgency in the opening scene. He was murdered two years ago and vows to not only bring his killer to justice, but also protect his still-mourning wife, Jessie, and son, Anthony. Protect them from what? And here another quote from classical literature (Sir Walter Scott) comes to mind, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Tangled indeed. Set in the show business world of New York, Andrew appears to his older brother, Nick McDeare (who was given up for adoption at birth), and enlists his help. Nick is an investigative reporter turned globe-trotting celebrity suspense novelist. He’s also very flawed (an inveterate womanizer), and doubly haunted by his shortcomings as a father and the death of his son. With Andrew’s blessing he takes up residence in Jessie’s New York City home while conducting his investigation, in the process endearing himself as Uncle Nick to Anthony. But there are many tensions and suspicions afoot as he begins to unravel family history, secrets, and connections, not least of which is Jessie’s long-standing relationship with family friend Gianni Fosselli, a rich Italian owner of a cruise-ship line.

The writing in this play is notably dense with intricate, vital dialogue, and as such it demands careful attention. It’s also a fairly long play, but the time factor is greatly ameliorated by the engaging intrigue of unexpected yet thoroughly credible narrative turns. A Nick McDeare page-turner if ever there was one. There are real surprises here that are, thankfully, not prematurely telegraphed in the story line that takes on an increasingly cinematic aura as it progresses. So in that spirit, I won’t give them away here.

Suffice it to say another factor that makes this play so powerful in its storytelling is the consistently superb cast, from “lesser” roles to the main ones. Paula Hillenbrand plays Mary, the housekeeper, with an enjoyable mix of buoyant charm and fierce loyalty to her charges; Rufus Malone Jr. plays suspect Ian Wexley with convincing fear and loathing; Young Alexander Borne is believable in his portrayal of the trusting, vulnerable son Anthony; Kathy Lewis is remarkable as Andrew’s best friend, Abbie – alternately tender, coy, and cunning; and Phil Robb is warmly genuine as police Lt. Lyle Barton who aids Nick in uncovering the truth.

Warm and genuine, too, is Timothy Mark Adkins as the ghost of Andrew. Even his most subtle facial expressions, as he watches the complicated revelations unfold in his family, communicate real compassion. Joe Martuccio, with authentic Italian accent, is suave and self-assured in his pivotal role of Gianni. The best, most compelling chemistry here, though, converges on Ross Rhodes as Nick, and Denise Robb as Jessie. This riveting, dynamic duo embodies all the play’s darkness and light, its pathos and humor, with startling, palpable sincerity.

Theatre 8:15 is an intimate venue, unique in its d├ęcor that might be described as Rural Victorian, or Country Baroque. It’s a refreshing departure from the old “black-box,” and the good folks there fondly refer to it as their “jewel-box theatre.” All the more apt on this occasion, as this play is truly a gem.

Richard Moore Theatre Company at Theatre 8:15 presents “The Evil That Men Do,” play dates July 1, 2, 3 and July 8 – 11, all at 7:30p.m. Tickets $10, available by calling (330) 896 – 0339. RESERVATIONS ENCOURAGED. Theatre is located at 4740 Massillon Road, Green, Ohio

Photo (courtesy Rod Lang): left to right, Timothy Mark Adkins as Andrew Brady; Ross Rhodes as Nick McDeare; Joe Martuccio as Gianni Fosselli

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