Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 5, 2014

Review: ‘Caffe Cino’ an enthralling experience

Senior Kathleen Gullion seeks help from Caffe Cino audience members during a rehearsal for "Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie?". (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

Senior Kathleen Gullion seeks help from Caffe Cino audience members during a rehearsal for “Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie?”. (Casey Mendoza/TKS)

“A Funny Walk Home”

“A Funny Walk Home” is a work written by Jeff Weiss and, like all the plays in this review, was originally performed at the real Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village, New York. Despite its name, “A Funny Walk Home” is not a comedy. Rather, the play highlights the implicit sentiments of a post-WWII America as it examines themes like alienation, social conformity, redemption and emotional distance. Sophomore Ian Tully plays Steve, a young man who comes home to his parents’ house after a long, parentally enforced stay at a mental hospital. The audience members are attendees of a coming home party that Steve’s parents, Estelle (junior Natalie Polechonski) and Bill (senior John Bird), are putting on. Steve’s younger brother Richard (junior Holden Meier), whom Steve meets for the first time when he arrives, is a relatively minor character who adds a bit of lightheartedness to the overtly dark tone of the play. As the show unfolds, the characters hint that the reverend (sophomore Padraig Sullivan) is on his way to the party. When he finally arrives near the end of the play, the audience sees that he is wearing full clown make-up Ñ a satire on traditionalist American society as well as a representation of the characters’ irremediable mental issues.

 “The Bed”

“The Bed,” written by Robert Heide, has a grand total of two characters. The dialogue is sparse and the set is minimal Ñ a white bed, a stool and a water basin Ñ and the wardrobe is two plain white boxers, a white shirt and a brown shirt. The story follows two young men, Jim (senior Andrew Purvis) and Jack (sophomore Tristan Yi), and their disintegrating relationship. The play examines existential themes, which it exhibits through its slow pace and long periods of silence. Despite its lack of plot or conflict, “The Bed” is an interesting play. It attacks the heart of such issues as homosexual relationships, relationships in general, apathy and inherited money. This play is definitely not for everyone, but it is a jewel for those interested in off-beat, existential plays.

 “Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie?”

“Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie” is perhaps the strangest of the four plays. Originally written by Tom Eyen, the time and setting are left purposely ambiguous. It begins with a barker (Sullivan) attracting people to a circus event. On display are a woman whose skirt always flies up, Hanna (senior Kathleen Gullion), and an attractive man in American-flag-typed boxers (sophomore Lee Foxall). The first visitor is Sophie (senior Sam Auch), who turns out to be Hanna’s sister. When Sophie arrives, the setting changes and all of a sudden, the two sisters are in Egypt. Throughout the play, the two sisters fight with each other and the audience to prove themselves better than the other. During their stories, whenever they need an extra, Foxall steps in Ñ like the setting, Foxall’s character constantly changes throughout the play. For every different character, he dresses in slightly different clothing to distinguish himself from the others. Despite the play’s confusing story, its unconventional story presentation makes the play an engaging production to watch.

 “Daddy Violet”

While its counterparts tackled more despondent themes, George Birmisa’s “Daddy Violet” is Caffe Cino’s comic relief. The play centers around three aspiring Chekhovian actors: leader of the troupe George (Purvis), rising star Dan (Meier) and Sylvienne (sophomore Moriah Chermak), an apprentice. The show is scripted, but in such a way that gives the show the effect of an improvisation performance. Of all four shows, this one relies most heavily upon audience participation. If you choose to attend this show, make sure you warm up your chops beforehand, because you will be singing. Part of what gives the show so much charm is its sheer ridiculousness. The actors run around the cafŽ, lay on the ground and contort themselves into all sorts of strange positions for the audience’s enjoyment. With its vibrant, lighthearted humor, “Daddy Violet” is an excellent palate cleanser for “Who Killed My Bald Sister Sophie?”

Tom Grizzle

Tags:  1950s acting actors cafe Caffe Cino coffee coffeeshop Greenwich Village New York theater thespians

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