Monday, October 10, 2016

Unique, well-acted LANFORD WILSON: TAKE 5 @ Cesear’s Forum

Caffe Cino, which was founded in 1958, is noted as the site that gave birth to off-off Broadway theatre.  It was the invention of retired dancer Joe Cino, who offered a place to do inexpensive creative works in New York City and not have to conform to Equity rules.  Cino bankrolled the adventure.  The shows were staged on a make-shift small platform.

Cleveland has similar theatres.  They are venues which are the inventions of a single person who scavengers for money from foundations and donors and produces shows on a shoe-string budget.  These  off-off Euclid Theaters include Patrick Ciamacco’s Blank Canvas, located at West  78th street (, Clyde Simon’s convergence-continuum, 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood (, and Greg Cesear’s Cesear’s Forum, which performs in Kennedy’ Down Under, down under the Ohio Theatre in Playhouse Square (

It is ironic that Cesear’s Forum is showcasing Lanford Wilson’s TAKE 5 as  Wilson’s first plays were staged at Caffe Cino.   The smallish platform on which the scripts were welcomed into the world was about the same size as that found in Kennedy’s which opened in 1921 as a  bar.

Wilson, a Lebanon, Missouri native, who died in 2011 at age 73, was noted as one of the significant writers of the 20 th century. He was one of the first playwrights to move from Off-Off-Broadway, to Off-Broadway, then Broadway. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980.

His first significant play was HOME FREE in 1964.  Other well known scripts were:  THE RIMERS OF ELDRITCH, THE GINGHAM DOG (his first Broadway show), THE HOT L BALTIMORE, FIFTH OF JULY, BALM IN GILEAD and TALLEY’S FOLLY.

It is the goal of Cesear’s Forum to “present works of social commitment and theatre experimentation.” TAKE 5, which is composed of five one-act plays, have been cobbled together into an evening of theater by the producer, Greg Cesear.  The evening features six performers playing various roles, and fits well into the theater’s purpose.

Adorable Tricia Bestic serves as the absent-minded narrator, introducing each of the one acts.  She bumbles the intros, messes up the titles of the plays, and interacts with the audience, creating a warm and comfortable atmosphere.

WANDERING covers 40 years of a guy’s life in 4 minutes.  He confronts parental conflicts, applying for jobs, being a conscious objector, being lost, relationships, and facing the reality of life, through a barrage of attacks. 
The main character (Beau Reinker) , who starts as a teenager, stays the same throughout, but the minor characters-- his parents, wife, friends, doctors, nurses, secretaries—interchange in their roles.

SEXTET (YES) is compromised of the thoughts and recollections of six characters, who wander and sit at random places as they react to each other's revelations with a quiet, "yes." Out of the pattern of their memories and the interweaving of their destinies, emerges a sense of their frailty, humanity, and the disquieting vulnerability of life itself.

A BETROTHAL is a delightful cat and mouse conversation which keeps the audience guessing about what is being discussed as two lost souls, a school librarian (Adina Bloom) and an associate gardener (Brian Zoldessy), who have come into a tent in order to get out the rain, express irritation with the way they have been treated by the judges.  Judges?  What does this have to do with a betrothal?

As the obtuse conversation about Little Soldier and Little Tanya takes place the duo spars, accuses, insults, attempts friendly conversation, and surprisingly come to an uneasy peace.  They agree to mate there flowers, his for its beauty and hers for its strength, thus creating an iris which will even dazzle the obtuse judges.

The physical and verbally dominant Bloom and the slender, nervous, bumbling Zoldessy are delightful as they advance, lunge, attack, feint, and parry as they conduct their verbal fencing match.

BRONTOSAURUS is considered as one of Wilson’s best one-act plays, and why he is regarded as the “greatest functioning playwright of the last quarter of the century.” 

A young man (Beau Reinker) arrives at a plush Park Avenue apartment.  He is there to live with his aunt (Mary Alice Beck), who will provide housing and also support his NYU collegiate education. 

She is a sophisticated, cynical, wealthy New York antiques dealer.  He is withdrawn and secretive.  She is a wise-cracking wine drinking, non-believer.  He is reticent, unemotional and claims he is going to study theology because he underwent a mystical experience. 

She becomes more chatty, a defense she has honed to keep the world away, thus reinforcing her awareness of the superficiality of her life and the futility of her existence.   He leaves to find his place in the world, leaving behind his much photographed bedroom with the view of central park.

Reinker, who often serves as a sound designer at local theatres, would be wise to get more involved in stage endeavors. He is handsome, has solid acting abilities, displays a nice level of sensitivity, and effectively textures his performance.  Beck is a fine actress, who develops a woman with a veneer of protection.

In A POSTER OF THE COSMOS a young black is sitting in a Manhattan police station interrogation room. 

Tom (Sean Booker), a baker, has been accused of killing his lover, who had been in the hospital in the last stages of death caused by AIDS.  Tom’s emotionally presented insights regarding the duo’s relationship, the attacks on them by an uncaring and ignorant society, and the stereotypes against him as a young black man provide great insight.   His pleas are answered by the interrogator’s derogatory refrain, “You don’t look like the kinna guy’d do somethin’ like dat.”

The play deserved its inclusion in BEST SHORT PLAYS OF 1989, and Booker deserves a standing ovation for his insightful, emotional, tear-filled development of the bereaved, shocked Tom, whose lover died in his arms. 

Capsule judgement: Cesear’s Forum, which has won both Cleveland Critics Circle and Times Theatre Tribute recognition for past performances, again proves, with LANFORD WILSON:  TAKE 5, that it doesn’t take a big budget, massive sets and ornate costumes to present wonderful and effective theater. Kudos!!

LANFORD WILSON:  TAKE FIVE runs Friday and Saturday through October 29, 2016  as well as Sunday, October 9 and 16, 2016 @ 3 in Kennedy’s Down-under.  Enter through the Ohio Theatre lobby and go down the steps to the theatre.  For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to