nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
July 20, 2011
The tears flow fast and furiously on stage during Susan Charlotte’s drama The Shoemaker, a production of her company Cause Celebre starring Danny Aiello in the title role. Audience members, however, will find themselves particularly dry-eyed and uninvolved during this 90-minute three-hander which also features Alma Cuervo and Lucy DeVito.
The date is September 11, 2001. The Shoemaker has closed the shop (believably rendered by Ray Klausen) early, unprepared to deal with the atrocities going on downtown. He is visited by Hilary, a similarly shocked and saddened patron (Cuervo) with a sole broken by the long walk uptown, who refuses to leave the shop until her shoe is fixed. The Shoemaker, meanwhile, is particularly devastated by the sight of a pair of pumps brought in that morning, by Louise (DeVito) on her way to work in one of the World Trade towers. Of course, The Shoemaker has more on his mind than merely the girl and the terrorist attacks. He is almost constantly haunted by the voice of his father (Michael Twaine), who shipped his young son and wife from Italy to America so they could avoid getting captured by the Nazis. The father stayed behind with his elderly mother, and both were eventually killed.
Originally a one-act, Charlotte’s piece reportedly played a sold-out run last summer. It was Aiello, one of the producers of this production, who convinced her to craft a second half. The result is a pair of roughly forty-minute halves, separated by an unnecessary intermission, that don’t really make a whole. Director Antony Marsellis’s glacial pacing doesn’t help, but neither does Charlotte’s clichéd and banal script.
Aiello, who seems to alternate between genuine emotions and histrionics, impressively delivers a rambling monologue (broken up only by offstage voices) in the second act that would be more affecting if it didn’t look so rehearsed. Cuervo seems on the verge of tears from the moment she stepped on stage, which works for the part, a college professor at a loss for how to function in her damaged city. DeVito is affecting as Louise.
The offstage voices provided by Twaine are muddied by poor sound design (by Bernie Dove), which turns them into ghostly echoes and rumblings. Yet even the voices on stage were hard to hear at times. I didn’t have that problem, but some of the people around me certainly did.
One needs only to see that Aiello and Charlotte are the producers of The Shoemaker to realize that there’s some amount of vanity behind the production. If only it were better for all involved.