If you had the option to choose whether to continue forth with normal life or to sacrifice everything for “one short sweet hour” to fulfill your most precious dream, what decision would you make? This is by no means a simple question, but I can assure you that I would spend that hour as far away from Tom Murphy’s The Gigli Concert (directed by Tom Prewitt) as possible.
So maybe I’m overreacting just a bit. While the play held little appeal for me and my friend (who obviously had no idea what she was getting herself into when I invited her to accompany me to the performance on Sunday evening), the majority of the audience seemed very engaged in the plot – as was demonstrated by the frequent bursts of laughter at times when I stared blankly into space, finding no humor in the characters’ comments or actions whatsoever. But, I suppose it’s good there even was a plot. well, sort of.
The Gigli Concert is set in Dublin during the early 1980’s, and the opening scene is the home/office of JPW King (Howard Shalwitz), the disheveled Englishman practicing the debatable therapeutic art of Dynamatology. The play begins with the flush of a toilet and the emergence of Mr. King onto the stage. Due to an unquenchable addiction to alcohol and an overt obsession with an unattainable woman Mona (Kimberly Schraf), Mr. King announces in one of his first lines, “Christ, how will I make it through this day?” When an Irish millionaire (Mitchell H?bert), who seeks to sing like the revered Italian opera tenor Beniamino Gigli, knocks on the door, it is questionable whether Mr. King, who is obviously suffering dilemmas of his own, will be of any assistance. The play occurs over a span of six days, each of which entails a therapy session between Mr. King and the Irishman, though it is unclear as to who is actually helping whom. Both men are connected by their longing for “one short sweet hour” – Mr. King hoping to spend it with Helen, his lost love, and the Irishman yearning to spend it singing. In the end, both men are able to benefit from Dynamatology, for each eventually accepts his current conditions and moves on with his life.
When the lights in the theater came on to signal intermission, my friend and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes – indicating that we couldn’t believe there was still an entire act of the play remaining! In fact, I found my level of excitement increasing more with each additional passing day in the play than with the actual content. H?bert’s Irish accent was inconsistent throughout the entire performance and the actors were incredibly melodramatic in several instances. There were no scene changes, the actors occasionally stood with their backs to the audience, an attempted suicide scene was totally unbelievable, and there were several awkward pauses where it was uncertain whether dramatic effect was intended or the actors had simply forgotten their lines. Random philosophical lines were intermingled throughout the play, Mona’s role was never fully established, and the entire concept of Gigli seemed completely irrelevant. Looking back on the experience, I have only one question to ask myself – Christ, how did I make it through that play?
The Gigli Concert will be at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW (7th & D), until May 7. Tickets can be ordered from the theater’s website, www.woollymammoth.net, or by calling 202-393-3939. Prices range from $30-$48, with seniors receiving a $5 discount and people 25 and under receiving $10 tickets. Stampede seats are available for $10 at the door 15 minutes prior to show time, and post-show discussions with the cast will be held on April 16 and April 20.