THE BLOG
11/27/2013 04:06 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

Raging Against the Dying of the Light With Imagination

I am not one to ordinarily write theater reviews, but I have just seen a play that is so worthy of acknowledgment that I feel compelled to call attention it -- particularly as it is a smaller, less publicized production that could otherwise slip past you.

The play, Every Day A Visitor, which is running from now until December 14 at The Clurman Theater on 42nd Street, brings to life a retirement home in the Bronx, where a handful of elderly residents are rusting away, awaiting the inevitable.

For those of us who have reached middle age, and become increasingly familiar with such surroundings through the experience of the generation before us -- and through contemplating the possibility that we may one day, sooner than we would like, find ourselves grappling with such circumstances firsthand -- the situation presented by the play is a poignant one.

But Every Day A Visitor is no dreary meditation on isolation, obsolescence and mortality. Quite to the contrary, it is an exuberant, sunny, rejuvenating take on a subject that for most of us is so unpleasant that we avoid it, until we cannot.

The light that comes streaming into this play begins with the scenario that its author, Richard Abrons, has crafted. In a moment of Archimedean inspiration, one of the denizens of the retirement home, Figliozzo (played by a vibrant and loveable Teddy Coluca), decides to escape the ennui of his quotidian existence by declaring that henceforth his fellow inmates should address him as former New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Rather than deriding Figliozzo's play acting as an onset of madness, the other residents are only too happy to board his flight of imagination. Soon La Guardia is joined by Bella Abzug, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger and an octogenarian named Stoopak (a moving George Morfogen) who metamorphoses from mush to magisterial once he is named the President.

Abrons, who the play's program points out is older than many members of the veteran ensemble, renders his characters' transformation with an empathy that is so profound and an understanding so nuanced that it could only come with a firsthand appreciation for their inner lives. His seniors are not revitalized simply by engaging in a childhood game of make-believe, they are reinvigorated by regaining their sense of self-worth and their confidence in being able to affect the future, not just reflect upon the past.

Guided by the subtle, sure-handed direction of Margarett Perry, the standout cast, which also includes a wonderfully curmudgeonly Bern Cohen, a riotous Janet Sarno, and a radiant Joan Porter, makes you regret that actors of a certain age are all too often relegated to bit players on stage and screen. These daring, adept performers are not fading into the dusk; they are raging against the dying of the light.

Toward the end of the play, Evan Thompson, who portrays a delightfully buttoned-up Grossman/Alan Greenspan, sums up the fundamental perception at which Abrons takes aim: "They don't see us as people. They just see us as old."

Who among us has not been guilty of this inhumanity? Every Day A Visitor confronts this lazy thinking, not to castigate the audience, but to free us from its grasp. After seeing this play, you won't just see these seniors as people, you will see them as exceptional, complicated, tortured and joyous individuals -- people, that is, just like me and you.


Every Day A Visitor runs through December 14th on Theatre Row at The Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street.