BWW Review: Emotional and Intense, A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE Resonates at The Marcelle
R & S Theatrics starts their 5th season with a gritty production of A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. Set in 1960s Dublin during a time when conservative values and social norms remained relatively sequestered in Ireland, the musical features an exception ensemble cast along, and a dynamic musical score spearheaded by conductor Curtis Moeller.
Adapted as a musical by Terrance McNally from the 1994 film starring Albert Finney, A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE centers around Alfie Byrne, a down on his luck bus conductor and theater director whose latest theatrical production leads to a powerful journey of self-discovery.
Tired of staging THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, Alfie's St. Imelda's Players, decide to perform something different and challenging; an interpretation of Oscar Wilde's SALOME. Knowing the show will draw the ire of the parish priest; Alfie keeps the production under wraps, setting about a series of events that eloquently illustrates the trials of staging local theater. Abetted by a dedicated troupe of enthusiastic, but not professionally trained actors, Alfie is determined to make great art. Meanwhile, his sister Lily remains determined to find him the right woman, his parish priest, Fr. Kenny, is frustrated by the company's poor fiscal returns, and Alfie may be developing feelings for best friend.
Although presented as a musical, A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE is very much an expressive drama. Onstage, the melodramatics are livened up with splashes of comedy and quaint charm and wrapped in an Oscar Wilde shell.
In fact, Wilde's fingerprints are everywhere throughout the show. Idolized by Alfie, Wilde's work motivates his very being, much to the chagrin of his bus passengers and theater colleagues. Wilde himself (played with a delightfully understated campness by Michael B. Perkins) even turns up to help Alfie find his way.
Perfectly cast, A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE is propelled by its lead, Mark Kelley. Giving Alfie both vulnerability and a quirky obsession for live theater, his performance carries the show. Mixing comedy, melancholy and devotion, Kelley brings a lot to the table in a command performance.
Also terrific is Stephanie Merritt as Alfie's protective sister Lily. Determined and independent, Lily's frustration over her sibling's peculiarities are brought to life by Merritt, who also provides many of the finest musical moments of the production.
Lindy Elliott returns to the company as Adele, a downtrodden young woman who serves as Alfie's muse for making great art. Like Alfie, Adele finds herself searching for a better life. In an ensemble filled with talented actors, Elliott's turn here is profoundly moving.
Relying on themes of friendship, acceptance, love and family, director Christina Rios has crafted an emotionally powerful production that intertwines moments of tenderness, charm, cruelty and perseverance that result in an intensely emotional theater experience. Kickstarting a new season, the well-acted A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, which has never been performed in St. Louis until now, is the perfect opening salvo from an ensemble who have carefully crafted a show that tackles provocative issues without sacrificing emotional resonance. The results are powerful and enthralling.
For more information on A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE at the Marcelle Theater visit: http://www.r-stheatrics.com