Rarely Done Opens with ‘elegy in blue’

Nancy Keefe Rhodes 09/15/10More articles
Al Marshall and Moe Harrington in “elegy in blue.” Photo courtesy of Rarely Done Productions, used with permission.

Scooting furtively around in his wheelchair, his hunched posture emphasizing the thrust and shape of his head, Rodney almost resembles a rat. As played superbly by David Simmons, the homeless Rodney is coarse, resentful, given to venal outbursts, and always on the lookout for food. He’s one of five characters in Rarely Done Production’s season opener that continues from last week at Jazz Central, “elegy in blue,” written and directed by Donna Stuccio. In the end, Rodney does get the home-made cookie he’s long coveted from beat cop Celeste Luna (Moe Harrington), though I’m not sure either of them really views this as a fresh start. Rodney could easily be a two-dimensional foil. But Stuccio’s characterization of Rodney and Simmons’ incarnation – each avoiding both extremes of sentimentality and stereotype – are instead impressive.

“elegy in blue” is the sequel to Stuccio’s 1999 play, “Blue Moon,” though you needn’t have seen the first play. Stuccio herself is a former police officer and now president of Armory Square Playhouse, where both plays had readings staged before their full production.

This new chapter in Officer Luna’s life takes place over just four late summer days in Atlantic City, largely in Angelsea Park but also at the beach, in Celeste’s living room and, finally, at the cemetery. There is also a prologue, occurring the first morning, when Luna silently finishes dressing in her police uniform, spot-lit at one end of the dark stage, while at the other end of the stage, also in a pool of light, the character Lucas (a fine Al Marshall) mirrors her in his own morning ritual. This creates an equivalence between the two – dramatically, because each has lost someone they still seek and each has no idea they will soon encounter the other – and an echo. Luna still thinks she hears her lover singing a snatch of guitar-accompanied song – another police officer dead for a decade now – and Lucas, just out of a Southern prison after forty years, has come to Atlantic City searching for his son, whom he’d last seen when the boy was ten or so.

Those two lost men must have had such a morning once too, when each dressed for the day, oblivious to their soon-crossing paths. The boy Anthony (well-played by the Creative Arts Academy’s Jamaal Wade), himself in a foster home, acts as another echo – for Luna, the son she never had and the main recipient of her fussy tenderness, and for Lucas, the embodiment of the son he lost. It’s low-life Rodney, nurturing his own scraps of “evidence,” who holds the key to what happened.

“What happened” is something you wonder about as the story unfolds, because such a play functions by working its way to an answer. This answer arrives in a rush at the play’s end – actually more of a rush than seemed quite organic. But more important is how Luna navigates her way through what seem to her largely hostile waters. On that first morning in the park she gets a new beat partner, Jesse, who’s trying a geographical cure from his soured marriage in Vermont, and she doesn’t much like him to start with. She doesn’t much like Rodney either, and she’s pretty free at first provoking and then rousting him. The arrival of Lucas brings more rousting and, after she plainly recognizes the son in his tattered old snapshot, a threat designed to make him to leave town. While we may bristle at Luna’s casual bullying – “Yeah, I’m shakin’ in my cop shoes!” she fires back as she hauls Rodney off to jail, just because she can – it’s really the same touchiness with which she responds to nearly everyone. Little by little, Harrington shows us what’s underneath such behavior. Harrington has been a fierce partisan of this play and she invests her performance with that energy and focus and, yes, delicacy.

Oddly, the beat cop Jesse – played by Mark Eischen, who is a very able actor – is the least fully drawn and the least convincing role. An appealing enough guy, Jesse acts as a brake on some of Luna’s worst excesses, and his fumbling portrays an inarticulate man’s sincere attempts to make contact. This last point is the play’s greatest weakness, because the fumbling goes on too long and slows proceedings down. How to make the inchoate yearnings of main characters function dramatically is a great challenge – see Clint Eastwood in “The Unforgiven” for what it looks like when successful – and part of the cure is tightening everything up to a brisker pace.

“elegy in blue” continues this Thursday through Saturday and also September 24 – 25, all at 8:00 p.m. For tickets, call 546.3224 or go to Jazz Central is located at 441 E. Washington St. in downtown Syracuse. Nancy covers the arts. Reach her at

CATEGORY: Performing Arts
TAGS: Rarely Done Productions, Donna Stuccio, elegy in blue, Moe Harrington, Al Marshall, Jamaal Wade, Mark Eischen
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 3.0/5 (17 votes cast)

Comments powered by Disqus

Local Entertainment Archive


Talk to Us!
We want you to know that your opinion matters. Please complete our online form and give us your feedback today.