Anthony J. Piccione
- New York City Critic
Depression and mental health. HIV and AIDS, and the impact it particularly has had on gay couples. Bigotry toward the LGBTQ community. The economic struggles of those who can’t keep up with the cost of rent and health insurance. These are all themes which have been tackled before in theatre, and I’ve seen many plays that do a fine job at doing so. Yet all of them play a part in the story of Rob Cardazone’s new play One More Time with Malice, which recently premiered at the Robert Moss Theater.
The play is set in the mid-to-late 90s, not too far after the AIDS epidemic hit its 1980s peak. It follows the story of a family, as the kids and husband struggle with the severe depression and recent suicide attempt of the mother/wife Beatrice. Meanwhile, as the entire family also must grapple with ongoing financial struggles, Beatrice’s son Freddie also struggles with HIV, as well as the emotions that come with eventually falling into a romantic relationship with Donnie, the nurse looking after his mother at the hospital. The result is an emotional roller coaster that ultimately builds toward a poignant and powerful climax…one which highlights an issue all too common still in the families of those of the LGBTQ community.
Produced by Two Cups and a String Theatre and directed by Eric Nightengale, the play is staged beautifully, and presented alongside a very well-designed set, which captures the shiny appearance and cold atmosphere that is common in most hospitals. The colorful lighting effects toward the second half of the play also were a great way of setting both the tone and location of each moment. The usage of makeup at certain moments of the play, particularly one moment toward the beginning, were also very well done and perfect down to detail.
In the role of Freddie, Stephen Joshua Thompson shows a great deal of both psychological and emotional depth in his performance that shows just how hectic the mind of his character really is. Meanwhile, Marc Sinoway evolves as someone who comes off as being somewhat cold to vividly emotional as Donnie, over the course of the play. Tom Ciorciari, Amanda Tudor and Kiley Rothweiler all turn in decent performances, as well, as Freddie’s father Joseph and sisters Vinnie and Josephine, respectively.
The best performance of the night, though, was that of Zoey O’Toole, who turned in an exceptionally emotional performance as Beatrice. It’s not easy to portray someone who is it terribly ill condition, both physically and mentally. Often, I find that certain actors can prove to be either too soft in their performances, or they end up overacting while trying to hit the mark. Ms. O’Toole, though, did a particularly outstanding job at capturing the depth of this character.
All too often, I see plays that try and fit too much into one play, in terms of including a ton of different plotlines involving different characters, as well as perhaps too many varying themes or issues. Yet this play succeeds, in a way that I can’t say about some other plays I’ve seen, in managing to tie it all together, and make it feel like it’s all relevant to the broader story of this family. I regret not seeing it sooner in its run, as by the time you all see this review, this current run will probably have ended. However, with any luck, perhaps this won’t be the last we’ll be hearing of this play.
“One More Time with Malice” – presented by Two Cups and a String Theatre – runs at the Robert Moss Theatre from March 8th–17th. For more information, please visit www.robcardazone.snappages.com/one-more-time-with-malice.htm.