Monday, April 24, 2017

Where the Numbers End: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy – by Amanda Moresco


L - R Elizabeth Regen, Alexandra Vino, Sofia Vassilieva - Photos by James Sprague

By Joe Straw

The photograph on the cover of the program gave the impressions that this was going to be a period piece. The setting of the play is 2005.  - Narrator

She was washing her clothes, who knows, probably in her sink. Now she’s on the roof on top of that drab old rundown 3rd floor walkup apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Laying ‘em out on the clothes line, trying to get them dry.  I have to laugh ‘cause the sun wasn’t getting to these clothes today. They’d be just as wet and dirtier at the end of the day.

You see people doing the strangest thing on the roofs in Hell’s Kitchen. But, you know sister, this ain’t so, so strange. I’ve seen worse and better. But, something made me look on this day. Yeah, I don’t know, couldn't say, but maybe there was something off about her. 

The clothes, bloomers, and undies are from another period, like she was an actress cleaning her costumes for a Tennessee Williams role in a run down church in the upper westside. 

Odd that she was wearing her bedclothes.  On close inspection it looked like a burlap sack, somethin' that hints at poverty that had set in long ago. And, where were her feet?  I think it was somewhere under the coarse bedclothes, or dress, or burlap flat sheet, whatever you want to call it.  The dress  did not accentuate any part of her body.  I like to see curves every now and again.

Clothespins in her mouth, mumbling something, I couldn’t really tell with these binoculars, looking so far away.  For that matter, now that I'm thinking about it, I couldn’t tell if the person was a man (with really bad hair), a woman (who has missed many trips to the salon), or one of them other types. Nope, it’s a woman.  I’m sure of it now.  I think.  Hold on sweetie. – Spying Narrator

The Whitefire Theatre presents the World Premiere of Where the Numbers End: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy by Playwright and Director Amanda Moresco, produced by Bobby Moresco, P.R. Paul, Joy Rosenbaum, Jessica Moresco, and Bryan Rasmussen through June 10, 2017. (The show will be dark on May 6th and May 13th.)

Theatre can be ambiguous.  It’s better if it is. Where the Numbers End: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy is ambiguous, poetic, but structured enough to throw off the poetry, and real enough to throw ambiguity off the roof. Hell’s Kitchen is not tragic, nor is it a rip-roaring comedy, but it is just enough to keep you entertained in the way you want to see New Yorkers interact.

The bar, where most of the action takes place, is in a place that seems to be gentrified with a diverse group of patrons. Set Designer Chris Tulysewski creates a very modest set at the Whitefire Theatre.  Three bar stools at the bar and two tables, stage right and stage left with some kind of condiment on them.


Aisleen (Lynn Sher) was headed for trouble.  (She was like the lady on the front cover of the program.)  Aisleen had more going for her, in her nightgown, and on the roof of her third story walkup. A wisp of a woman walking against the breeze holding her precious book of writings, poetry, stories and what not, basking in her neurosis, it doesn’t take much to spread the toes over the edge, breath the fine air, and then just slip.


“You can’t punch people in the face anymore.  You can slap them but that’s not the same thing.” - Louise

Louise (Elizabeth Regen) is as hard as nails, the steel ones, not the frilly painted ones, as if anyone would notice the paint has long disappeared from her fingernails. She thinks her time has come and gone and now she has to babysit her female cousins who can’t keep themselves out of trouble. The men, the men, the men are all trouble, not one fit for human consumption.

Margaret (Sofia Vassilieva) turns 21 today. She is the reason for the party in the bar, the celebration of sorts, all decked out in her virtuous white dress, carrying around the book, her mother had when she jumped off the roof, if not on her, then mentally attached in spirit.  Sofia’s mother has never left nor has Sofia left her and that is part of the problem. That was 10 year ago when her mother made that willful statement.  

In someone’s mind, Margaret’s mother, Aisleen waits the bar, a figment of Margaret's bizarre poetic imagination, an imagination that assaults her from every conceivable angle.  That one person reminds everyone of that special person that has passed.   

Caroline (Alexandra Vino) has reached her sexual prime, or what appears to be.  She is in a tight red dress that would attract any man within a mile, or two, and she knows it.  Is it Tuesday? She picks her counterpart, indiscriminately, but she is really not that choosy with the men or with the booze she drinks.

The three ladies live in one apartment in Hell’s Kitchen so there is no bringing up men to that apartment.  The bar is across the street from where they live. No matter it is time to celebrate, or maybe not celebrate, because things are looking kind of strange on this night.

It must be a full moon on Margaret’s birthday.  After a shot to toast the birthday girl, Louise says she doesn’t shoot drinks she can’t see through.  Caroline gulps hers down in a flash.

Eddie Goines

John (Eddie Goines) interrupts the party and wants to speak to a visibly shocked Louise. But Louise is having no part of it; she wants to take care of her girls and she wants to leave the bar. John needs to tell her something about her eyes.

“Maybe it was my fate to come here tonight, to tell you that you better open them.” – John

To Louise, men have a way of presenting misguided information.

Margaret flees from the scene to speak to someone she met earlier in the morning, Samuel (Matty Daniell).  She is slightly smitten by a person who appears, albeit on the surface, slightly normal.  Samuel thinks out loud – it’s not a good idea to be living in a place where her mother jumped off the roof and where her two aunts died. He invites her to come with him to visit the Statue of Liberty.  Margaret is frightened of leaving her comfort zone. Samuel leaves her with a bit of advice.

“Please stop listening to dead people.” – Samuel

Zachary Mooren and Alexandra Vino

Caroline waits for another shot and strikes up a conversation with Guy (Zachary Mooren) a man in a nicely tailored suit. It doesn’t take long for Caroline to figure the guy out, married, just so she knows she’s on the right page with this – dare I say it, a jerk. They’ll meet in the bathroom a few minutes later.

As far as the night is concerned, things are not going well for Louise especially when a disheveled Caroline comes out of the bathroom, Margaret walks away from her boyfriend in a trance.

Jig (Dario Torres), Caroline’s former boyfriend and soul mate, comes bouncing into the bar. Louise sees him and tells Caroline not to do it, not to get mixed up with him again, but Caroline is not in the mood for anymore of her motherly advice.

Amanda Moresco wrote and directed “Where the Numbers End: A Hell’s Kitchen Love Tragedy.”  I didn’t think it was a love tragedy or a tragedy at all in the true sense of the word tragedy.  No one got hurt, just a lot of bruised egos and a couple of smacks against the face. The play is a mixture of poetry, reality, and realism all in one fell swoop.  The title refers to a people who are stuck in their location with no way out – a “No Exit ” meets “Waiting for Godot” in a manner of speaking and execution.

The men in this production appear as poetic antagonist to the women.  It wasn’t hard to find on the Internet that the four have names that are synonymous with the male anatomy Samuel, John, Guy, and Jig (Gig).  And then there’s the out and out mention of the “yoga prick.”  One is not sure the writer had this in mind when she named the male players.  Or maybe she has a highly active imagination.

There is a lot to enjoy from the antic of three surviving cousins, whose mothers left these surly bonds of planet earth long ago and in various ways.  Moresco puts it out there on the page and directs in a fashion where she knows all that is about to happen.  In the course of action, there is little room for ambiguity, there are few surprises, nasty men come and go, and the women go on with their lives.  Perfect for a one act but not pushing the boundaries of depth we need, in character, and in action that I will direct in the character analysis. There is more to be had in the strength of character choices.

Lynn Sher plays Aisleen a woman who jumps off the roof 10 years earlier and appears as the Bartender throughout the show.  Poetically speaking she is the mother overseeing the actions of her relatives, most importantly her daughter. But I’m not sure the actor made that choice in the way she treats the patrons, especially her nieces.  

L - R Alexandra Vino, Elizabeth Regen, and Sofia Vassilieva

Elizabeth Regen as Louise has nowhere to go. Strong, tough, wants to keep her cousins in line.  She stays that way with little chance to grow, or giving us a change in relationships with either of her two cousins.  Louise is angry for having lost a love she probably never had at all.  What changes in Louise and why does it happen on this night? Regen does a fine job with the character and is a really fine actor, but the catharsis is minor and little has altered from the moment we first see her to the end of the show.

Alexandra Vino is Caroline a self-destructive woman with a number of assets in her favor, great body, attractive, and has a head for problem solving.  But Caroline has a drinking and drug problems along with complications with her choice in men, which includes most men who walk into the bar.  Caroline wants to explore her boundaries for the time she has before moving on to other things. And she makes mistakes, not little ones, but great big ones on a grand scale. Vino is terrific in the role.

Sofia Vassilieva provides a great deal of confidence in the character of Margaret. Her voice was strong; the manner in which she articulates the dialogue is vibrant.  But the character needs more depth and nuance, and a stronger objective, and one that ties her visions and her actions to her mother.  Margaret is on the verge of collapse on her 21st birthday.  (Vassilieva appears to be fourteen.) She is emotionally tender, seeing things that are not there.  A grander physical and mental life is in order, a life that adds to the written dialogue.  

Sometime people come into your life to provide you with information, which you heed or ignore.  Eddie Goines as John is like that.  Maybe John wants something from his female companion, or maybe he doesn’t.  But one thing he does want is to convey a message, an important one.  Goines portrayal hits the mark and is wonderful in his sensitivity to the character. The interpretation is rich in flavor and poignant in execution.

Without giving too much away, Matty Daniell plays Samuel.  Samuel is also there to help in a strange and bizarre way.  But in that characterization, more has to happen.  A character of this type can’t be “joe normal” and expect to get away with just coming off and on stage without a profound character choice.  Samuel brings an unexpected message and that message must come in an unexpected way. Still, Daniell has a very good look on stage.

Zachary Mooren has some really grand moments as Guy.  This is a character that must come down front and center and interact.  Instead he is at the bar, which is upstage.  Still, there is some really good work going on in character.  His voice is appealing, and his manner suits the despicable personality.  

Dario Torres is terrific as Jig, a Latino knight in shinning armor. But Jig has faults of his own, a forever friend who has made a decision and has turned on his dear friend. But, he’s got to move on. He comes to the bar hoping he would not see his friend?  Right.  He is there to give finality to their relationship.  He comes in to man up and do the right thing. Torres is also terrific in the role.

One can really appreciate the fight choreography by Mike Mahaffey in this play, which had a reality of its own.

Other members of this crew are as follows:

Elle Maney – Associate Producer
Derrick McDaniel – Lighting Designer
David Svengalis – Sound & Graphic Designer
Nancy Santiago – Stage Manager/Wardrobe
Nora Feldman – PR

Run! Run! And take a barfly.

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