BWW Review: FERN HILL at 59E59 Theaters-A Mature Comedy that is Heartfelt and Spirited
"Our biggest adventures are yet to come."
By Michiko in Fern Hill
59E59 Theaters is now presenting the NYC premiere of Michael Tucker's Fern Hill, splendidly directed by Nadia Tass. I had the opportunity to also review the play when it made its world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ, a theatre renowned for launching new works. Tucker has since made a few changes that have enhanced his story. It is an authentic tale about the ups and downs of marital relationships and people's individual concerns about aging. Funny, heartfelt, and spirited, the current production features an all-star cast.
Fern Hill tells of three couples that have honed a longtime friendship. The six of them gather at the farmhouse of Sunny and her husband, Jer to mark momentous birthday celebrations. Sunny suggests that they live together as they grow older to provide support and companionship. Everyone advocates the plan, except for Jer, who vehemently rejects the idea of communal living. Their ideals are tested when Jer's infidelity surfaces. The group comes together to have an honest, revealing discussion about love, sex, intimacy, and the expectations of marriage. The story is thoughtful and affecting, yet full of humorous moments that are totally entertaining.
The company of Broadway veterans masters their roles along with Tucker's clever, pointed dialogue. They include Mark Blum as Jer; Jill Eikenberry as Sunny; John Glover as Vincent; Mark Linn-Baker as Billy; Jodi Long as Michiko; and Ellen Parker as Darla. The characters are quite dynamic. Billy loves to cook his authentic Italian recipes; Michiko and Darla travel to Europe for Darla's photography exhibit opening; Vincent encourages Sunny's artistry; Jer questions the future of his literary career; Vincent recovers from a hip replacement with the care of Jer and Sunny; and Billy continues to take road trips with his rock 'n roll band. When they discuss about their interests and goals, the six of them seem ageless, which makes them all very relatable.
The Creative Team has done a top job of bringing Fern Hill to the Upper East Side stage. They include scenic design by Jessica Parks; costume design by Patricia Doherty; lighting design by Kate McGee; and sound design by Kenneth Goodwin. The Propmaster is Addison Heeren. Original casting is by Nancy Piccione; Additional Casting by Michael Cassara Casting, Michael Cassara, CSA; the Fight Choreographer is Judi Lewis Ockler; and the Production Stage Manager is Stephanie Clark.
Fern Hill gives its audiences food for thought. The options for elder care are something that many of us in our golden years ponder. Tucker's concept for living well is both intriguing and inspiring. See this show while it is on the 59E59 Theaters stage. Not only will you enjoy it, but it will definitely provoke a lot of interesting discussions.
Fern Hill is produced by Mary J. Davis and MBL Productions, Inc. It will be on stage for a limited engagement through Sunday, October 20. The performance schedule is Tuesday - Friday at 7 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 7 PM; and Sunday at 2 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 - $70 ($49 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call the 59E59 Box Office at 646-892-7999 or visit https://www.59e59.org/. The running time is 120 minutes, including intermission.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg