The top floors of Manhattan buildings house some of the richest people in New York. They showcase skyrise views and lofts that represent priceless luxury. Nicu’s Spoon however, is a top floor apartment in a building with an inoperable elevator that promotes exercise with signs saying, “Only a few more floors, you can make it” posted at every landing.
After catching your breath upon reaching the fifth and final floor, an open door suggests that there’s a beautiful thing inside. The refreshments are less than refreshing, the couches are old and worn, and the bathroom in the lobby has a sink that simply produces noise and not water. This is underground theatre past the pavement.
With all the problems of the facility, “Beautiful Thing” as a play will leave you just as breathless as the staircase. This is off Broadway to the third power. Being that this is as underground as theatre can get, the hunger in the eyes of the actors was obvious. The acting and blocking were as tacky as the furniture, which fit so perfectly with the script. For instance Jamie a failed athlete and altogether outsider, played by Trip Langley was a joy to watch. His character is the catalyst and basis for the entire story.
From the beginning Jamie just seemed like a friendless nerd, but as the production evolved, so did he. He started as just a doofy high schooler with a chip on his shoulder, but once he began to open up and be himself his expressions transitioned to flamboyant. It’s difficult as an actor to slowly ease into a comfort zone when there are so many transitions associated with the role. From a problem child, to closet dwelling homosexual, to fully embracing an inner self that was rioting to escape.
Trip Langley was the highlight of the show as his change from straight to homosexual wasn’t sudden and obvious but well spread. Each time he learned something about himself he loosened up and became less ashamed of his thoughts and actions and in being that person it also led the way for the other actors on stage beside him to create their roles, into characters all their own.
Another star studded part of the show was Rebecca Lee Lerman, who sang the daylights out a song that nobody but her knows the words to. Even though the point of the scene was for her to sing bad and hurt eardrums, it came as surprise that her loud rambunctious voice shined through, even though the dramatization required the exact opposite. She played Leah, a friend of Jamie’s and bit of a trouble maker.
She played an important figure as the pretty, young, troubled, girl next door. If it had not been for her we might never have known that the main characters Jamie and Ste were gay. Lerman may have overacted in some scenarios, but with some of the scenes being a bit noir, she had the eyes of a sad cat, and definitely didn’t have a problem making the audience feel the exact emotion that her character was feeling at the time.
The beautiful thing about “Beautiful Thing” is the advanced acting and staging techniques used by such an under-staffed and over-talented theatre company. The English accents were a bit of a stretch, but considering none actually hail from England, each actor on stage nailed their performance and took advantage of their time to shine.
The downside to this British comedy/drama was that Tony, a step-dad father figure for Jamie was booted off at the end of the show when Jamie’s mom broke it off with him for no reason at all. It didn’t make much sense since he really didn’t cause any difficulty for Jamie, his mom, or any of his neighbors. In fact, it turns out he was more understanding and supportive to Jamie’s dilemma then even the mother was.
The original script, written by Jonathan Harvey did not remove Tony at all. The changing of the script made the ending feel a bit weird since Tony, played by Tim Romero, was one of the most sympathetic and likeable characters to touch the stage. He was a straight man who had an open mind about his step son being attracted to the same sex. So making him disappear really was an awkward piece to the puzzle.
Nothing bad however, can be said about any of the actors. They all played their parts with precision. Ultimately despite the change in script, this theatrical event was successful and thoroughly entertaining. In the case of a certain “Beautiful Thing” the end result was worth the journey up five flights of sauna hot stairs.