By STEPHANIE OTTEY
There are a lot of talented actors in our theater community, and within that group are a few who can be trusted to make a profound statement every time they take the stage.
These are the actors to watch for when choosing what to see, and the Youngstown Playhouse’s production of “Our Lady of 121st St.” has a slew of them.
Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, “Our Lady” may not have the commercial appeal that other shows running right now possess (for example, “Spring Awakening” at the Oakland and “Rent” at YSU Theater), but it boasts a cast that can’t be overlooked.
The premise of this dark comedy is simple: Sister Rose has died, and her students, family members and friends have joined to pay homage, despite the fact that her body is missing. Guirgis’s deeply moving, and wickedly funny play is really about people, though – people who are revisiting youth and lamenting the journey that has brought them back to 121st St. The plot doesn’t move much, and like life, no sub-story is nicely resolved.
Instead, this script offers the opportunity to meet some incredibly real, knowable characters.
So much so that sets, costumes, and other technical aspects (all suitably designed in this show) are virtually irrelevant.
When Christopher Fidram has his name on a show it’s bound to be good, whether he’s directing or acting in it. In “Our Lady” his time on stage is relatively brief, but impactful nonetheless.
Likewise the names of Anthony Genovese and Cleric Costes are beginning to bear a similar implication. The two have shared the stage multiple times and delivered great performances then, but what they offer as brothers in this show is captivating. Costes is so transformed into Pinky that he enhances the performances of those around him. His commitment is mesmerizing. Genovese is more open and vulnerable in the role of Edwin than we’ve seen before, and the result is a performance that is emotionally jarring.
David G. Brown is an audience favorite, and a breath of fresh air amidst some thick drama. He connects to his dialog, giving it an impromptu feel that energizes the stage. Brown is relateable and down-to-Earth as Rooftop.
Kim Akins is an absolute riot as Norca, creating crass poetry with her dialog. She and Donna Huntley develop a realistic love/hate friendship that is incredibly fun to watch.
Candace DiLullo remains centered as Marcia, Holly Ceci is an adorable voyeur, Victor Garcia makes a curmudgeonly Father Lux, and Eric Kibler holds it down as Balthazar.
Patrick Hobby is surprising as Gail, and proves to be a versatile actor, while Dorian Thomas shocks as his closeted lover Flip.
Of course, there’s another name to this production that is starting to mean something significant; in a short time, Director Matthew Mazuroski has proved to be someone to watch. He brings his casts to new levels of understanding with their characters and one another, and chooses scripts that are challenging and fresh. He’s already contributed a great deal to our community, and we should look forward to more.
Don’t miss “Our Lady of 121st St.,” which will be performed just two more times at the Youngstown Playhouse, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.