Poor directing mars Victorian’s JFK-themed show




“Sparky … from Chicago” marks the third and final installment of what is known simply as “Trilogy.” Though it is unnecessary to see any one of these plays to see the other, they all revolve around the same theme: the John Fitzgerald Kennedy assassination in 1963.

“Sparky…” is the story about the man who shot the man who shot JFK, Jack Ruby, played by Brady Flamino. It begins in Ruby’s shady strip joint in Dallas, named the Carousel and shows his dealings with Dallas police officers and his involvement with the Mafia.

Events begin to spiral out of control when Ruby is approached by two mysterious characters, Tennessee, played by Jack Hay, and Bowers, played by Victor D. Garcia. These two men are somehow instrumental in persuading Ruby to do jobs either for the Mafia or the CIA. We’re never really told.

Like any good conspiracy theory, the loops loop and the knots get tied until eventually Jack Ruby is persuaded to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.

“Sparky…” is the culmination of some 28 years of research by writer and director J.E. Ballantyne, Jr.

While I recommend the community attend this show because it opens a strong dialogue on the subject, unfortunately this play has many problems due to poor writing and poor direction.

It’s as if all the pieces are there but no imagination when presenting the copious amount of material contained within the play. Names are dropped a mile a minute with no clear relationships being established. And though the script is completely lacking in any subtlety, I still found myself asking several times throughout the night, “Who are these people?”

The dialogue seems to go in circles with no clear indication as to where it’s headed. This is done to leave the audience to make up their own minds, but it’s done in such clunky fashion that all it does is lead to confusion.

Also, the best thing Ballantyne could have done as the director was to step down and have someone else take over. I don’t mean this as a dig at his competency — even though I find he lacks any sense of imagination as a director — but it’s very clear throughout the evening that he also lacks an objective eye. Sometimes a writer can direct his own material very well. This is not one of those times.

Again, as a first workshop, the ideas are in place and I urge everyone to see this show because even though it is flawed, I believe it is necessary for the community. The script needs a complete and total overhaul but the symposium offered by the Youngstown Area Theatre Alliance is a great way to continue the dialogue begun by the play. It also serves to answer any questions about some of the vague characters introduced in the production.

“Sparky…from Chicago” plays at the Victorian Players weekends through Aug. 4. For more information call 330-746-5455.

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