Anthony J. Piccione
- OnStage Contributing Critic
In the world of pop culture, the popularity of a talented and lucky few endures long after they are gone, in large part thanks to the books, music, films and plays that they inspire. Legendary actor James Dean is certainly among those individuals, and as the play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean reminds us, the cultural appeal of these icons – and the dedication of their fervent fan bases –is slow to fade.
Written by Ed Graczyk, … Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean premiered in 1976 at the Players’ Theater in Columbus, Ohio before being adapted for the screen in 1982. It tells the story of a James Dean fan club reuniting in 1975, 20 years after the star’s death. Over the course of the play, the characters share secrets from the past. The storytelling is aided by continual flashbacks to 1955.
As someone who had been unfamiliar with the play prior to seeing it, I must admit that the script wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. There were a few funny moments and the plot became slightly more interesting during the second half, but overall, I found it to be a mediocre and somewhat dated story which relies too heavily on the appeal of the celebrity figure around whom the plot revolves.
However, this should not be taken as a critique of the artists who produced the play. Working in the WorkShop Theater’s MainStage Theater, director Erin Solér made the most of what I consider to be one of the better Off-Off-Broadway venues in New York, although I think it would have been nice to have drawn a clearer distinction—either through the blocking or the lighting—between the scenes that took place present and those set in the past.
I particularly enjoyed the set design of this production, which was a near perfect representation of a five-and-dime in Middle America during the mid-20th century. The costuming was also accurately reflective of the period; in general, both the acting and the costuming effectively evoked the era.
The cast did a fine job at bringing these characters to life. Lynnsey Lewis was excellent in the role of the younger Mona, while Nicole Greevy does a fair job at portraying her older self. Monica Rey and Ariana Figueroa also do decent jobs in the respective roles of Juanita and Sissy, while Chris Clark brings to life the role of Joanne, whose background was one of the more fascinating aspects of the story. The cast is rounded out by Sonja Gabrielsen as the younger Sissy, Kristin Sgarro as Stella May, Rebeca Miller in the role of Edna and Elliot Frances Flynn as Joe, Joanne’s younger self.
While I wasn’t exactly a fan of the play itself, on the whole it was well-produced. Judging by the audience’s reaction on the night I was there, it seemed that plenty of others in attendance enjoyed it. I’m sure that audiences out there who are either old enough to remember James Dean or have some appreciation for 1950s-era storytelling will especially enjoy this, so if you consider yourself to be in either of those categories, it is particularly worth considering during its run over the next week.
“Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" – presented by Regeneration Theatre – runs at the WorkShop Theater from November 2nd to November 12th. For more information, please visit www.regenerationtheatre.weebly.com.