"Bartleby the Scrivener," a prefer-ably delightful dramedy from playwright R.L. Lane, made its American debut last Sunday at the Blue Heron Theatre. Bartleby stars theatre vet Gerry Bamman, most notably remembered for his performance in "Nixon’s Nixon," and a host of unknowns including European import Marco Quaglia, making his first outing at the Blue Heron since 2004’s "The Waves."
The play, born first from the mind of Herman Melville then later adapted for the stage by Lane, owes its beating heart to the character of Bartleby, an anemic and soft spoken boy looking for work as a copyist on the streets of Manhattan’s Financial District during the mid-nineteenth century. Standard, a Wall Street attorney, consummate bachelor, played with acute precision by Bamman, welcomes the young man in with an open heart. Like a boy loves his pup, Standard adores Bartleby. Then, rather unexpectedly, the dog begins to bite the hand that feeds it. Climbing on furniture, staring at walls, convulsing uncontrollably—Bartleby abandons his copyist duties for more deviant acts, allowing the play to soar, unrestricted by its languorous beginnings, to grotesquely fascinating heights. More than a period piece, the play transcends history through its unique analysis of Standard’s unhealthy obsession with Bartleby.
Quaglia, though barely a handful of lines to his own, is a spellbinding force on stage and delivers a quiet, venerable Deppian performance; this continental actor is the prize of the litter. Bamman, with his wheels turning, by all accounts, churns out an enviable performance. Although handled with great care by director Alessandro Fabrizi, the rest of the cast can be forgotten, save for the delicious portrayal of imprisoned food aficionado “Grub Man,” played effortlessly by Robert Grossman. Even still, despite a few miscast actors, the billowing steam pumped out by the Bartleby engine is too loud to ignore. Rich in biblical overtones, and with sharp wit matching unnerving drama, "Bartleby the Scrivener" is sure to please those looking to be challenged.
The Blue Heron Theatre, 123 East 24th Street, November 3rd - 27th
For tickets call SmartTix (212)868-4444 or www.smarttix.com
According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.