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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    Random Harvest

    The silver scream

    A bizarre tragedy from the 1940s film world comes to haunt a reclusive playwright and his flamboyant boyfriend in the thoughtful and humorous "Random Harvest."


    Aaron is depressed — that's because it's the best day of his life. His play has just been nominated for a major award. Aaron's fabulous boyfriend — an ex-actor who's found the perfect job researching the year 1964, his favorite year because it was a huge one for Julie Andrews — points out that he should be ecstatic, since this could launch his career in theater or even movies.

    Written by: Richard Willett.
    Directed by: Eliza Beckwith.
    Cast: Patrick Welsh, Ann Talman, Jay Alvarez, Kate Downing, Jonathan Kandel, Patricia Randell.
    "Oh please," moans the stay-at-home playwright. "I don't think the people in Hollywood know what the Drama Desk is. I don't even know what the Drama Desk is."

    Rather than gregariously field all his congratulatory calls or go out to the ceremony and hobnob with the theater world, Aaron prefers to sit at home and brood, or call up his one human connection — the mother of a teenager who's been in the news for graphically burning himself to death.

    And he's about to develop one more spare-time hobby, which becomes the backbone of the play — being visited by the ghosts of dead actors. And not just any dead actors but specifically the stars of the now-obscure 1942 drama "Random Harvest." Why these people should be showing up in Aaron's dreams — which is to say, why they're popping up in a play performed off-Broadway in 2001 — to the accompaniment of screams and muffled gunshots, we can only wait and see. By the end, we will have gotten to the (imagined) bottom of the bizarre (real) death of young actress Susan Peters with help from the flamboyant ghost of Greer Garson.

    There are many themes interwoven in this very thoughtful and sometimes humorous play by the author of the excellent "Triptych," and you can't necessarily point to a single one as the dominant message of "Random Harvest." But it's clearly a play about characters who respond to hardship by closing themselves off from others. They're not as blithely happy as the characters who do have social skills, and yet within their reclusive little worlds they are pushed to the limit for better and for worse. We see three characters all struggling against their own limitations while others seem never to have a care. My guess is that playwright Richard Willett is taking a public look inside himself, trying to understand why some are driven to create, even to the point of their own destruction.

    "Random Harvest" features strong performances all around, including Patrick Welsh as Aaron, Jay Alvarez as the boyfriend Jimmy, and Kate Downing as the prematurely doomed actress Susan. The crowd favorite, though, was Patricia Randell (like Downing a Triptych" veteran) as the marvelous-despite-being-stone-dead Greer Garson, giving the character an over-the-top sense of her own glamour that's good for a laugh every time she pops on or off the stage.

    JUNE 25, 2001

    Reader comments on Random Harvest:

  • Patrick Welsh   from rick arnold, Aug 17, 2009

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