BWW Reviews: ROY COHN Given a Fresh Look at Odyssey

Hunger: In Bed with Roy Cohn
by Joan Beber
directed by Jules Aaron
Odyssey Theatre
through March 11

Playwright Joan Beber's concept of Roy Cohn in her intriguingly nightmarish Hunger: In Bed with Roy Cohn, now onstage at the Odyssey Theatre, comes off a self-indulgent, spoiled, gluttonous, untrusting child monster, which certainly does not add up to a positive view of his humanity. In Angels in America, as I was too young to know the reAl Cohn in the McCarthy era, I saw Al Pacino's hard-edged, evil-to-the-core interpretation of the man. Barry Pearl's in Hunger, yes is more childlike, whimpering, whining, but if Beber truly wants us to witness a good side to bad, she has not succeeded. I despise the lying, bigoted, hateful man just as much as I did before, reality or fantasy. On the positive side, director Jules Aaron has ingeniously staged the over-the-top entertainment with a marvelous cast. Hunger will run through March 11.

Pearl, always a dandy actor, carries off the crazed, confused man/child to perfection. Interestingly enough, this is a play, but with music, and he and the others dance and sing to Kay Cole's snappy choreography. The numbers do not further the plot, as in a musical, but rather are incorporated to add comments or character traits. And indeed they do, but scenes are so short and choppy, and character entrances and exits so abrupt, it truly appears to be a psychedelic nightmare and many of the characters, cartoonish. Cohn is in a huge queen sized bed center stage with his toy froggie and other indulgences around him like half-empty plates of tuna sandwiches - his favorite, but this is the after-life and Cohn is in Purgatory, where he is awaiting God's decision for him to rise up to Heaven or fall into the depths of Hell. Although he died in '86, it's present time, as Barbara Walters mentions The View and other current fads are alluded to. A haunting bell tolls every once in a while as if to summon him, but nothing results from it, so the merriment goes on. There's his overly protective mother Dora, with whom he lived until her death in 1969, played out convincingly by Cheryl David and his maid/nanny/girl toy Lizette, played with sparkling effervescence and conviction by Presciliana Esparolini, who caters to his every whim. Then there's a younger version of himself - this may be the only real innocent Roy, who is open to other, more positive life choices - played wonderfully, especially in dance, by handsome Jeffrey Scott Parsons. Roy's supposed homosexual lover G. David Schine is essayed with fervor by Tom Galup; long time friend Barbara Walters is played with self-assured aplomb by Liza de Weerd; Ronald Reagan is given a very amusing portrait of political ignorance by David Sessions and then there's Julius Rosenberg, played with fortitude by Jon Levenson, who seems to alternate as Roy's enemy/friend - Roy betrayed his confidence as the prosecuting attorney, but, Oh my, both being Jews, they could have been such buddies! Beber adds such questionable complexity to this role. The whole ensemble work beautifully separately and together under Aaron's bright, upbeat pacing to make the crazy entertainment work at its optimum best. Even though the people are not three-dimensional, they do amuse. John Iacovelli's set is at once garrish and lush, not such a bad place to be as one awaits his fate.

Great direction and great cast provide a fascinating fresh look at an old demon. Even if the bad boy Cohn stays irritating and rotten - does he really go to heaven in the end?/ that's right, this is only a fantasy! - he's still somewhat amusing to watch.

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From This Author Don Grigware

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