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Nylon Fusion Theatre Company Presents "Unmentionables", by Joseph Samuel Wright
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Nylon Fusion Theatre Company Presents "Unmentionables", by Joseph Samuel Wright

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Nylon Fusion Theatre Company
www.nylonfusion.org
Ivette Dumeng: Artistic Director
Presents:

Unmentionables
By Joseph Samuel Wright

Directed by Montserrat Mendez

Starring:
Jeanine Bartel, Jimmy Betts, Danielle Boivin,
Heather E. Cunningham, Meghan Jones,
Christina Toth, Rick Zahn

Scenic Designer: Kyu Shin
Sound Designer: Andy Evan Cohen
Costume Designer: Debbi Hobson
Stage Manager: Laura Malseed
Publicist: Bunch of People Productions
Fight Choreographer: Jimmy Betts
Dramaturgy: Janet Bentley

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 4, 2015


In February, I had the pleasure of discovering Nylon Fusion Theatre Company, whose New York – London, based mission is the fusion of political, social, and cultural awareness. I attended and reviewed its Gala event, with awards given to Austin Pendleton and Anika Noni Rose. An entertaining tribute to Mr. Pendleton was presented by John Patrick Shanley. Ted Nash’s jazz band, featuring Mr. Nash on saxophone and Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, played popular dance ballads from the 1920’s - 1940’s. This very vibrant, up and coming Company, is led by Ivette Dumeng, Producing Artistic Director, and its Advisory Board includes Mr. Shanley and Mr. Nash. I was invited to its next project, a performance of a commissioned play, by Joseph Samuel Wright, called Unmentionables.

Montserrat Mendez, Director, brought in a fantastic team, including Debbi Hobson, Costume Designer, who located and created the evocative dresses, hats, and suits worn in the 1930’s. Andy Evan Cohen’s sound design included classical film scores used in Hollywood hits from circa 1937. Scenic Designer, Kyu Shin, replicated a pre-World War II Hollywood studio company’s head office, within an uncluttered, expansive space at the Shetler Studios on West 54th Street. With a black-white tiled floor, seats were placed along the four walls, for a perfect view from each seat. My seat was placed where the secretaries sat, and across the studio, I could view the executive office and large wooden desk. Seven charismatic actors included: Rick Zahn, as head of company, James Johnson; Jimmy Betts, as his shallow, self-serving son, Ricky Johnson; Heather E. Cunningham, as Mrs. Milner, head of the outside office and Mr. Johnson’s personal assistant; Jeanine Bartel, as Joan Madison, a seasoned star, looking for fulfillment, at home and on screen; Christina Toth, as Ann Southerland, an ingénue, wannabe film star; Danielle Boivin, as Dora O’Malley, a lovely young secretary, who implodes before our eyes; and Meghan E. Jones, as Gertie Fowler, who grows a spine, when accused of betrayal.

The entire cast works beautifully and seamlessly, as secrets unfold and dark layers, beneath perky personalities, explode. Through one character, we hear of the aftermath of World War I atrocities, as this 1937 setting occurs simultaneous to threats and pre-war atrocities in Europe. Through the father and son, we witness double personalities, each unique and, in 1937, scandalous in its own way. Through the star actress and the budding actress, we see competition transform to adaptation and bonding, and, though the two younger secretaries, we see each react to the shock of physical or verbal abuse. Although the ending is “unmentionable”, each character threads a fine needle to escape disaster, thanks to the ease of societal secrecy in 1937, as well as some heavy-handed, backroom deals. As a new play (a hallmark of Nylon Fusion), Unmentionables is quite intriguing. There’s nothing like Hollywood gossip, much more rampant today, with paparazzi photos and captions thrown on the open internet within the moment. Mr. Wright’s window into one imaginary studio could be developed into a successful play.

Mr. Mendez directed this work, with its intimate audience, for details in gestural emotions, especially in the case of Ms. Cunningham, who, when embroiled in an office crisis, showed hints of fear and trepidation. Mr. Zahn’s character, in the covering of a mid-play surprise, was fine-tuned and credible in the facial shading and body language of internalized angst. The five additional members of this impressive cast each found ways to rivet interest through dramatic calibrations of expression and presence. The cast and company-based creative team of Unmentionables should be seen again in their next project, as it’s so memorable to experience a play with such tight audience immediacy. Kudos to all.

.


Meghan Jones and Danielle Boivin in
Joseph Samuel Wright's "Unmentionables"
Courtesy of Al Foote III



Christina Toth, Meghan Jones,
Danielle Boivin, Heather Cunningham
in Joseph Samuel Wright's "Unmentionables"
Courtesy of Al Foote III



Jimmy Betts and Heather Cunningham
in Joseph Samuel Wright's "Unmentionables"
Courtesy of Al Foote III



Rick Zahn in Joseph Samuel Wright's "Unmentionables"
Courtesy of Al Foote III



The Cast and Set of Joseph Samuel Wright's "Unmentionables"
Courtesy of Al Foote III


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net