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      Carl the Second
    Just a second

    "Carl the Second" is an often-hilarious but also literate and gently profound portrait of a guy who's been coming out second-best all his life.


    When Carl's older brother comes home from college, he does so with a flourish: "Mother, father, people of Linden, New Jersey — I am home!" he declares, to the townspeople's loud cheers. As for Carl — the second son, the bench-warming guard on the basketball team whose crowning glory is the moment when he makes the last-second pass in the big game — nobody's cheering him.

    Written by: Marc Palmieri.
    Directed by: George Demas.
    Cast: Jeremy Johnson, Siobhan Mahoney, Edgar Oliver, Marc Palmieri, Megan Pearson, Brian Sloan, Carlo Trigiani.
    Altered Stages
    212 West 29th Street
    Previews start: Nov. 29, 2001
    Dec. 3, 2001 - Jan. 6, 2002

    It takes years of living for Carl (Marc Palmieri) to figure out what he is — he's a Second. He's the almost-good-enough guy who stands by while others, the Firsts, make the big shot, get the big promotion, get the girl. Once in a while he has a stroke of luck and one of the First girlfriends gets bored enough to take him for a spin, but that, he knows, is a passing thing, despite their reassurances.

    Carl's beautiful but temporary girlfriend, in an effort to prop up his crippled ego, assures him she's no longer not interested in her ex, Antonio. "He's rich he's talented, he's sexy, he's beautiful — but I'm not looking for that anymore!"

    With ego-boosters like this, he becomes the Carl we see in "Carl the Second" — a beaten, discouraged young man, some might think, but one who's made his peace with having a second-rate life. Still, when the charming and attractive Christine (Siobhan Mahoney) comes along, she sees his deeper qualities — he's handsome, cultured, charming, literate, athletic and romantic.

      "Carl the Second" touches a melancholy spot in the soul and softens the ache there just a little.
    Can Carl hang on to something good when it comes his way or is he doomed to his second-rate life because he's inwardly afraid to hope for something better? That's the crux of this play, and it's a story of doom that we sometimes see with a woman at the center but rarely with a man. Our hero is the opposite number of the woman who complains that all men are dumb jerks while deliberately dating dumb jerks.

    Everything about "Carl the Second" is spot-on. Long Island native Marc Palmieri was also the excellent lead of last year's wonderful film "Too Much Sleep." Besides being the totally winning star of this play (and attractive to the point that you might doubt he could really be one of life's "Seconds"), he also wrote the script, which is filled with laughs throughout, its sense of black humor softening the persistent sense of doom and self-destructiveness attached to the otherwise loveable lead character.

    The rest of the cast is also excellent, notably Siobhan Mahoney as Miss Right, Megan Pearson as a whole succession of too-good girlfriends, Carlo Trigiani as the brother and the sexy Antonio, and Jeremy Johnson as Carl's older mentor and sometime matchmaker. The staging is skillful, particularly in dream sequences in which Carl finds himself among the great second fiddles in the history of literature.

    Sometimes I felt I'd known this Carl, and many times I felt I'd lived his life myself. "Carl the Second" touches a melancholy spot in the soul and softens the ache there just a little. It's the second-best play I've seen in a long time.

    DECEMBER 17, 2001

    Reader comments on Carl the Second:

  • Carl the Second   from Harold Tedford, Dec 17, 2001
  • How good it is!   from Bob Goulding, Dec 19, 2001
  • It is so real   from Tatiana Abbey, Dec 22, 2001
  • Re: It is so real   from David Garnier, Aug 2, 2005
  • Long live Carl the Second   from Phyllis, Dec 24, 2001

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