Anthony J. Piccione
When looking back on the year 2007, it can be easy to think of it as being part of a bygone era. Indeed, it can be tempting for some to compare that time period to the present – despite how turbulent it often was – and view it as a relatively simpler time. Yet that notion overlooks the fact that some major societal issues that we often think about today – from the technological changes the world is experiencing and how it affects workers to misogyny in the workplace and the challenges that women continue to confront in modern society – were just as prominent then as they are now. Even as such issues have gotten more attention among the broader public over the past decade, the reality is that many things about America in 2007 haven’t really changed much since then. That’s exactly what we see in the play Last Call – first written back in ’07, and now running at the Hudson Guild Theatre as part of the 2017 NYSummerfest – as each of these specific issues are explored through the prism of what happens in one small bar in Los Angeles ten years ago.
The play – written by Los Angeles-based writer/actor Bruce Hickey, who originated the role of Danny Zuko in Grease – largely revolves around Sherri – a corporate lawyer who frequently uses her good looks to advance her career – and two men she works with: Phil, the head of finance she has been dating; and Marty, and the head of marketing with whom she had a holiday affair with. Over the course of the story, audiences are exposed to the types of scandalous situations that can often happen behind the scenes in the corporate world, as well as how the actual business decisions these people make can affect the lives of others, and ultimately – without giving too much away – an extreme situation that involves our lead characters being forced to confess some of their deepest, darkest secrets.
Under the direction of Holly Payne-Strange – known for her work with the Fireside Mystery Theatre podcast, as well as various theaters and festivals in the U.S. and U.K. – the play is masterfully staged, in a way that often feels particular important with a script that feels as dialogue-driven as this one does. As the play keeps going on, it gets easier to get drawn into both the story and the performances, and harder to take your eyes off the stage.
The cast of five actors is a mix of both experienced stage and screen actors. International actress Francesca Anderson proves to be a notable highlight in the role of Sherri. Grant Schumacher (Marty), Bryon Clohessy (Phil) and Mike McNulty (Burns) also turn it fairly decent performances. However, it was Gerald Bunsen – who was most recently seen by audiences across the U.S. as the Toad in the TV series Gotham – who steals the show toward the end with his performance as Quinn – a Vietnam veteran turned ex-convict – that kept me on the edge of my seat, despite only being on stage for a smaller portion of time during the play.
In terms of the play’s technical aspects, the set – a large table and small table with some chairs – stays consistent throughout each scene, and the production is very minimalistic, in terms of its usage of lighting and sound. However, the combination of the gripping dialogue and the way the play is staged, along with the usage of props, largely make up for this and help ensure that the play keeps the audience’s attention.
Generally speaking, I will say that I felt that this play does get off to a somewhat slow start. However, it slowly builds up as we learn more about the characters and watch their stories unfold, with the play eventually reaching an intense climax, as well as a plot twist that I personally did not entirely see coming. By the time I left the theater, I was quite impressed with the way in which the playwright was able to keep the audience’s attention as the action built up, as well as the way the cast and director brought the play to life. There are only two performances left of its run at the Hudson Guild Theater, so if you have the chance, be sure to consider checking it out.
“Last Call” runs at the Hudson Guild Theatre – as part of the NYSummerfest – on September 11th and 13th at 9pm and September 16th at 6pm. For more information, please visit www.lastcalltheplay.com.
Anthony J. Piccione is a playwright, producer, screenwriter, activist, essayist, critic, poet and occasional actor based in New York City. His plays have previously been produced in NYC at various theaters and festivals such as the Midtown International Theatre Festival, the NYWinterfest and Manhattan Repertory Theatre, as well as Connecticut venues such as Playhouse on Park, Hole in the Wall Theater, the Windsor Art Center and Windham Theatre Guild. Additionally, his one-act play “Ebol-A-Rama” was recently published this year by Heuer Publishing (www.hitplays.com), and he has also previously worked as a teaching assistant at Hartford Children’s Theatre and New Britain Youth Theater, in addition to his work with OnStage Blog. He received his BA in Theatre from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2016, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. To learn more about Mr. Piccione’s recent and upcoming productions, please visit www.anthonyjpiccione.com and be sure to follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and Instagram (anthonyjpiccione).