This week I got to see the fabulous premiere of Art House Productions’ new play, “Something to Remember Me By.”
My coverage for this was a bit strange since I wound up doing an advance for both The Jersey Journal and The Jersey City Independent. My review of the play, which I saw on its opening night Thursday, was a Lead story for JCI, which you will find below.
“Something to Remember Me By” runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. through June 22, at Art House Productions, 1 McWilliams Place, Jersey City. The June 23 show at 7 p.m. will be followed by the Art House Summer Blow Out, an end-of-season party with live music, food, raffles and more. Tickets are $18, $15 for students/seniors. Suitable for ages 13 and up. For more information, visit ArtHouseProductions.org.
Something to Remember Me By Brings Prime-time Drama to the Stage — Or Rather, the Table
One night after the hit premiere of the “Dallas” reboot on TNT, Jersey City welcomed its own prime-time soap opera.
Art House Productions’ new play, Something to Remember Me By by Founder Christine Goodman, has all the right ingredients for high-stakes drama — family rivalries, infidelity, shocking revelations and high-powered characters who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
In the play, Abigail Morris (Anna Nugent) welcomes family and close friends to dinner at her estate, hoping they can move past conflicts toward a brighter future, which proved much more difficult than she anticipates.
The audience’s experience begins as soon as they step into Art House’s chameleon space, transformed into a dark, grand dining hall complete with a gigantic table measuring 51 by 9 feet and over 3 feet tall. The six principal characters sit in exaggerated chairs that complement the gargantuan table. The audience, however, sits in regular seats.
Audience member Joanne Smith said the effect was instant as she sat. “It takes you back to when you were a little kid at the dining table, when you couldn’t quite see over the top.”
As the audience settles in, Abigail surveys the room along with butler Henry Wilkins (Paul Bauer), both effectively setting the tone. Without saying a word, Nugent shows that her character is elegant, prideful and purposely proper. Bauer establishes Henry as benevolent, loyal and efficient.
The action finally begins with the gradual arrival of the guests. Abigail’s estranged sister Lucille (Kit Vogelsang) comes back to the estate after years of battling her demons and, according to some of the other characters, destroying others’ lives. Those who enjoyed seeing Vogelsang in last year’s Murder on Ice will love seeing her in a lead role. Lucille stands out as the heroine despite being called out on her sins and while many of the others become caricatures just like the gargantuan dining room, Vogelsang keeps Lucille human and real.
Various conflicts are introduced as the audience learns about the sisters’ relationships with movie star Charles Heindecker (Todd Woodard), family friends Claudine and Edward Van Der Kamp (Daniela Dragomir and Paul Nugent, Anna’s husband) and cousin Molly Fortnight (Megan Wagner), who offers comic relief as the bubbly, oblivious drunk.
Most of the play’s backstory is cleverly revealed through flashbacks, often ushered in by dreamy jazz standards and soft colored light, and the actors using the table as a stage. While director Jack Halpin’s placement of characters on both sides of the table will keep your head turning like a tennis match (which is novel at first, then somewhat annoying), the temporary in-the-round moments are surprisingly easy to watch from the dwarfed chairs.
One of the standout on-the-table scenes is a phone call between the sisters, which avoids the cliche of using prop phones that appear out of nowhere. Instead, the women speak into open air and wander about the stage, at times coincidentally gesturing to each other. Halpin expertly choreographs this scene to characterize their relationship as an unavoidable disconnect.
It’s basically impossible to describe anything else about the play, really, without giving away the meat of the plot.