New York Review: "Mr. Parker" at Penguin Rep

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  • Pia Haas, Contributing Critic- New York

The Penguin Repertory Theatre has done it again! Mr. Parker, a stunning new work by accomplished playwright, Michael McKeever, is an amusing, heartfelt and emotionally astute look at love, loss and the struggles of facing an uncertain future.

With the winning formula of an intelligent, thoughtful playwright and an ensemble of exceptional actors, the play comes to life under the watchful, inspired eye of director, Joe Brancato.

We meet Terry, a 54-year-old man (The captivating Derek Smith), seven months after the death of his longtime partner, Jeffrey. Having taken on the “burden and responsibility” of removing Jeffrey from life support after a tragic auto accident, Terry is left feeling empty and lost as well as grieved.  His entire identity had become wrapped up in his artist husband’s celebrated career. His role in the marriage was that of the devoted, supportive partner, having set aside his own writing aspirations. Suddenly this thing that created so much meaning in his life no longer exists. Left is a sense of emptiness where that meaning used to be. 

He meets Justin, (The delightful Joe Chisholm) a 28-year-old hunk, at the local gay bar. A relationship begins to develop. With witty one-liners which bring out the deft humor of the play, Justin enlightens the socially and technologically deficient, Terry to the ways of the current times.  This unlikely pairing begins to give Terry hope for the future.

Enter Cassie (The formidable Mia Matthews), Jeffrey’s sister and business manager. She is determined to preserve her brother’s legacy. This “impressive monster” is a force to be reckoned with, challenging Jeffrey at every turn.  

The interactions and conflicts between the three characters are, at once, emotional, thought-provoking and amusing, thanks to the great skills of the actors and their director.

In the end, Terry’s goal is to step forward into the next phase of his life and create his own legacy.  Reaching the point where you can remember and honor your loved one without being halted in your own living, is a worthy mission.

The action takes place in a realistically conceived, funky, 80s Manhattan artist’s loft, featuring an impressive skylight, designed by David Goldstein.  Heather Carey’s costume design was perfection and included several killer couture outfits for Cassie. Lighting design by Jamie Roderick and sound design by Max Silverman were spot-on and contributed greatly in transporting us to the loft.

GO!  Don’t miss the limited engagement of this wonderful play!  

Mr. Parker runs through Sunday, October 6th. Performance days and times are Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m., with matinees on Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There is also a weekday matinee Friday, September 13 at 2:00 p.m.

Penguin's intimate, 108-seat theatre, which is located at 7 Crickettown Road, is a repurposed 1880s hay barn and offers air-conditioning, a wheelchair accessible entrance, restrooms and seating, and plenty of free parking. Tickets to Mr. Parker are priced at $48 (including facility fee and service charge). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more and young people (30 and under).

To order tickets or for further information, visit Penguin Rep's website at www.penguinrep.org or call 845-786-2873.