“Perfectly”, responded Mr. Isaac Cohen when asked, …” if he was happy”, in WCP’s latest production, Abie’s Irish Rose, which opened this past Saturday. A happy time was had by this writer and audience to this delightful comedy about a Jewish young man who secretly married an Irish Catholic girl unbeknownst to either of their fathers. The intrigue of the show centers around how Abie tries to get his father to believe that ‘Rosie” is a Jewish girl.
The lead character of Solomon Levy, well played by Maury Herman, brought the color of the Jewish dialect and idiomatic sayings to a high point and his tightness for money. Mr. Herman is a natural in the part, and though Mr. Herman comes from a choreography background his talent as a straight actor is quite evident. His genuine feelings towards his son comes through the dialogue and truly meaningful.Equally funny was Steve Lemenille, the hen-pecked husband of Mrs. Isaac Cohen, played by Steve’s real-life wife, JoAnne Lemenille, played Solomon’s neighbor and lawyer who seem to have an eye for the young ladies. This role seems to fit Steve well since the last time he played Col. Fairfax in WCP’s production of “Little Mary Sunshine” who also had an eye for the young ladies. Having seen Mr. Lemenille in a number of WCP productions, his ability to portray so many varied personas, with impeccable timing for comedy…ia a remarkable attribute.
JoAnne Lemenille, who plays Mrs. Cohen is a delight with her never ending conversations about her “appendicitis operations” and her nagging of her husband. Having seen Mrs. Lemenille as Lena Zubritsky in WCP’s production’s “Fools” and having been described as another Betty White, she certainly fit the bit with her portrayal.
The Act III banter between Mr. and Mrs. Cohen over “ham” had to be the funniest dialogue of the show where Mrs. Cohen is asked to watch over the ham prepared by Rose Mary for Christmas dinner, and the facial expressions on Mr. and Mrs. Cohen brought the audience to an uproarious laughter.
Brian Remo, who plays “Abie” Levy, is strong in the role as Solomon Levy’s son. Sometimes, however, too much over-the-top anger for a comedy. This maybe the director’s concept or the actor’s sense of the role. The scenes between father and son were a clash of old traditions and values versus the new generation. And these were played quite well.
Ali Giacona, newcomer to WCP was charming as Rose Mary Murphy. Miss Giacona carried her part quite believable and her association to the other actor’s demonstrated the far ranging extent of her abilities.
Rick Roberts, who plays Rose Mary’s father, gave a tremendous performance as the Irish father bent on preventing his daughter from marrying an Jewish boy. Mr. Roberts’ Irish dialect was simply superb. The dynamics of Mr. Roberts and Mr. Herman during their scene when they are presented with Abie and Rose Mary’s twins was precious as both families put aside their differences for the children. Jim Broderick was absolutely picture perfect as Catholic priest Father Whalen. His command of the role was as though the part was written for him. Mr. Broderick’s portrayal was dignified and respectful of a man of the cloth.
Gregg Mele, played Rabbi Jacob Samuels, gave a memorable performance as a learned Rabbi ever mindful of his office and role as the religious confident of the Solomon family.Ever poignant was the scene between Father Whalen and Rabbi Samuels when they give the meaning of the play…”that we’re all trying to get to the same place, only by different trains.”
WCP never seems to have difficulty in presenting its sets to fully utilize its stage, and this production was no exception. Bill McMeekan’s set design was truly amazing with a complete transition between the apartment of Solomon Levy to the apartment of Abie and Rosie in ACT III. What was thrilling was the audience actually saw the transition taking place and the intricacies of the change. An experience too often the audience never gets a chance to see.Having seen numerous productions at WCP, the décor, however of this production could have been more elaborate for the Levy residence. Of the many productions I have seen the most memorable of décor, color and furnishings was “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”, “A Midsummer Night’ Dream”, “Angel Street” and “Crimes of the Heart”.
Some staging of the production could have more movement along the downstage area of the set. Too much of the action took place far upstage and lost some impact of dialogue and facial expressions tied to the lines. This could be the fault of the stage size, but perhaps some consideration by future directors could take this into account.
WCP has chosen a delightful, wholesome, light comedy with “Abie’s Irish Rose” to open a very strong line-up this season with “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, “A View from the Bridge” and “Smoke and Mirrors.”