The world premiere of Jonathon Tolins’ The Forgotten Woman, presented at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, was a smashing success. The production, which is directed by Noah Himmelstein, captured the audience’s attention from the first lines and had them moaning, cheering, laughing and focused throughout the entire two-act play.
It is so refreshing to see new brilliance in playwriting and timelessness themes portrayed in today’s world. The play is set in a Chicago Hotel just after the turn of the 21-century. It examines the complexities of being on the precipice of being extraordinary with the backdrop of being ordinary, a process so many of the greatest artists of all disciplines experience as they go through the transforming door of greatness. In this play, it is Margaret, the opera singer. Mr. Tolins touches the many nerve endings of the imperfections all artists feel when they throw themselves to the mercy of the public.
The playwright also tackles the issue of obesity in today’s society through the thoughts, words and actions of the main character Margaret, an emerging opera star played brilliantly by Ashlie Atkinson, who struggles with her weight. He peels away the many layers of self-consciousness and actual pain overweight people deal with, being scrutinized in the press and in public. Yet Tolin does it with humor and an amazing touch of “matter of fact” dialogue that wins over the audience and has them supporting and rooting for Margaret.
Darren Goldstein plays Steve, the new opera critic of the local paper, who knows absolutely nothing about opera but was a high school acquaintance of Margaret, where they both were in their high school production of, Hello Dolly, as the leads. Goldstein plays this complex character not too dissimilar to his role on Showtime’s hit series, The Affair. He plays the role of the pseudo villain with a keen instinct that intrigues you enough to be sympathetic and quite frankly forgiving of his actions. His chemistry with Ashlie Atkinson (Margaret) is excellent.
Mark Junek, who plays Erick, Margaret’s business manager, has moments when he steals a scene or two, but it is Mr. Tolin’s writing that shines out from the mouth of Erick, no fault of Mr. Junek that the playwright knows how to brilliantly express the inner thinking and frustrations of being gay.
Robert Stanton competently plays the role of Rudolph, another complicated character who is Margaret’s husband, voice teacher, and music arranger, who also has a spark for Erick. He is the glue to the story because he was the one who first saw the talent Margaret had and then devoted his life to bring her to the top of her craft.
Then there is Justin Mark, who plays Jordan, the hotel employee, and quite frankly, the actor’s magnetism has star all around it. Although he brings a today effect to the play, Mr. Mark seems to be moments away from his breakout moment in acting because he has the “it” factor hugely.
Lastly, Director Noah Himmelstein has created a chemistry that ignites Mr. Tolins’ characters’ words, thoughts and ideas, into an actual very visual and fluently talking reality. The show never lags because Ms. Atkinson’s (Margaret) dynamic explosions of expressing her feelings and emotions keeps drawing the audience into caring and paying close attention to feel her pains and eventual triumph. That is why the play, The Forgotten Woman, is a triumph for the Bay Street Theater, and Playwright Jonathon Tolins. This is a production worth seeing, perhaps even more than once.
The Forgotten Woman can be seen at Bay Street through Sunday, June 19th. Tickets begin at $25.
Bay Street Theater is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information call 631-725-9500 or visit www.baystreet.org.