Another Day on Willow Street, a play set in the Heights and written by Park Slope resident Frank Anthony Polito (read Mtierney's interview with "FranQ," as his friends call him, here), is now part of the New York Fringe Festival, and being staged at the Players Theater, 115 Macdougal Street, in Greenwich Village. There are three remaining performances: this Wednesday, August 22, at 3 P.M.; Thursday, August 23, at 10:45 P.M. (for you nighthawks); and the final on Saturday, August 25 at 4:30 P.M. It's an intense, fast-paced drama: ninety minutes with no intermission. For me, it was ninety minutes well spent.
I had some early doubts. The plot centers on four people: Ian (Fred Backus) and Stacy (Pamela Sabaugh), hard-charging yuppies expecting their first child in about a month's time; Mark (Craig Bentley), an actor who lives next door to them on Willow Street; and Mark's lover, Paul (FranQ himself), a lawyer who lives in Boston to be near his terminally ill mother, and spends as much time with Mark as he can, which is less than either would like. For the first part of the play, these two couples are unaware of each others' existence, but often all four actors are on stage, each couple having a cell phone conversation. These conversations are strikingly similar, with the same words often being used. The object of this stagecraft seemed obvious: to hammer home the point that straight and gay love relationships have the same structure and dynamics, characterized by the same desires, anxieties, jealousies and conflicts between ambition and devotion to the loved one. But the play transcends being simply a vehicle for a message, most powerfully in its depiction of the loving friendship that develops between Mark and Stacy, beginning with an encounter on a Promenade bench. Moreover, the acting is uniformly excellent. As one who has been there, I can attest that FranQ's portrayal of a young lawyer with a challenging practice is spot-on.
A few things don't quite ring true. Would a self-described "JAP from Greenwich" really have as one of her fondest desires to spend a day at Coney Island? Also, during one of Ian's many business trips there's a drunken encounter (though a pleasant one as such things go) between him and Paul, who are unaware of their indirect connection to each other, at Boston's Top of the Hub. This seemed to me to serve little purpose beyond serving as a counterpoise to Mark's meeting with Stacy. Besides, my wife, who grew up in the Boston area, said that no one gets drunk at Top of the Hub; it's strictly for dining and admiring the view.
Despite these minor quibbles, this is, on balance, a first-rate dramatic work. Be forewarned: there's a surprise twist at the end; one that serves to show how our best of intentions and well-crafted plans can be demolished by contingency.