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BWW Reviews: 4th Wall Theatre's A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

"Love Who You Love", the haunting melody that is sung multiple times throughout A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, truly encompasses the message of this heartfelt production currently running at the 4th Wall Theater in Bloomfield. While the context of the song may change with each reprise, the meaning of the lyrics are clear; do not allow society's expectations to stand in your way, listen to your heart and love who you love.

"This play has been a favorite of mine for a long time, ever since it was at Lincoln Center," notes the production's director Kate Swan. "I've admired the score and loved the story. This season at 4th Wall we did all shows about theater people in one way or another and this show fits into that category with the main character being a theater lover."

A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE tells the moving story of Alfie Byrne, a middle-aged bus conductor living in 1964 Dublin, who possesses an intense passion for theater and poetry. He imparts his love for the arts on his company of actors, an endearing group of misfits who faithfully follow Alfie's direction in the annual Church of St. Imeldas theatrical production. This year, however, Alfie's desire to put on Oscar Wilde's play, SALOME, has been deemed blasphemous by the parish elders and he is given no choice but to shut down the production entirely.

As he begins to pack up the costumes and props from his disbanded play, memories overwhelm him, and in his imagination, his loyal actors begin to put on their own play - the story of Alfie Byrne himself and the events which brought him to this moment. "The frame of St Imelda's players coming in and saying ‘we're going to put on a play about you' is there in the script," says Swan. "But the layer that I had fun toying with as a director was the idea that they not only serve as his players, they also act as a Greek Chorus. They watch him and support him along the way."

In this imaginary production, Alfie must face his own truth about who he is, a gay man in love with his fellow bus driver, Robbie. At his side to help him reconcile his feelings is none other than the ghost of Oscar Wilde himself. "Alfie's fascination with Oscar Wilde helps him escape into a fantasy world where he is strong and brave and where he can find a way to "love who you love" despite society's restrictions." Swan contends.

The superb cast of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE has an impressive array of theater credits, including several Off-Broadway turns. In their current roles, the actors were faced with the added challenge of speaking and singing with thick Irish brogues. Lead actor Jan Topoleski, with over 30 years of theater experience, came to the production with an Irish accent already in his back pocket. Other cast members used a variety of methods to perfect their dialects. "Initially I gave everybody an Irish CD of a very famous dialect training system by David Allen Stern and they all listened to it and studied it," Swan explains. "Then we brought in a dialect consultant, Dustin Charles, and he worked with the cast for about a week. If they had a question on any particular line, he would record it for them so they could deliver it correctly."

Adding to the exceptional cast is the production's wonderful musical score, which is conducted by 4th Wall's Musical Director, Markus Hauck. The play is a collaboration of book writer Terrence McNally, composer Stephen Flaherty and Lyricist Lynn Ahrens. "The team had worked together on RAGTIME," notes Swan. "They liked each other so much that they said ‘Well what else can we do together?' They found the Albert Finney film of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and decided that this nice little Irish story would make a good project for them."

A majority of the credit for the highly professional, creative quality of the production must be given to Director/Choreographer Swan, a veteran director of regional and New York City theaters. As Artistic Director of 4th Wall, she strives to bring unique and thoughtful productions to audiences. "Part of our mission is that we try to do shows that people don't know and that make people think. I want people to leave thinking about and feeling something and having changed a little bit for having seen the show." With A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, Swan has certainly achieved her goal.

4th Wall's Production of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE is currently playing at the Westminster Arts Center in Bloomfield on June 10, 11, 17, 18 at 8:00 pm, June 12 at 2:00 pm.

The Standard Subscription Package for 4th Wall's upcoming season beginning October 2011 (which includes 3 musicals and 1 play) is priced as follows:

General Admission: Adult Ticket: $69 Students and Seniors: $57

SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION PACKAGE OFFER: Purchase a subscription package at any of the performances of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE and take $10 off the above prices.

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From This Author - Caryn Robbins