Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, July, 1999
Warren Leight is the toast of Broadway at the moment, since his play “Side Man” took the Tony for Best New Play at the awards ceremony this past June. This new play of his “Glimmer Brothers” currently having its world premiere on the Nikos Stage at the WTF, has a ways to go before reaching best play status. Right now it is merely very good in this charming production directed by Scott Ellis.
“Glimmer Brothers” is coltish teenager of a play – showing glimpses and signs of greatness to come while acting disarmingly goofy. It makes you want to come back and see it again in a couple of years to see what it has made of all that early promise.
Martin (John Spencer) and Daniel (Terry Beaver) Glimmer are twin brothers who acheived some measure of fame as jazz musicians in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s. When the play opens they have not spoken to each other in over 40 years. Martin is pretty much down and out – a recovered junkie living on booze and cigarettes in a fifth floor walk-up. Jordan Shine (David Schwimmer), the son of an old jazz buddy and also a strugling musician, keeps an eye on him and shares music and memories.
Daniel is married and living in Greenwich, CT. His wife, who travelled with the Glimmer Brothers in their heyday, has been convinced that the way to keep Daniel off of drugs is to keep him far, far away from Martin and from music. Together with their daughter Delia (Kim Raver) they run a successful scarf manufacturing firm. A chance meeting between Delia and Jordan, coupled with Martin’s serious illness, bring the brothers together again and starts a new phase in the lives of all of the characters.
Leight has created endearing characters, and the cast presents them winningly. If only you felt you knew a little more of what lay ahead for them after the curtain falls. I am not longing for a big group hug or anything like that. Just a little more sense of what these people have learned and how they have grown from this experience. Then I would be sitting here telling you what a GREAT play “Glimmer Brothers” was, definitely Tony material.
Spencer is a hoot as Martin. His death-bed scenes are achingly funny and I ferverntly wish that I find them to be true when my time comes. I found Beaver less accessible and moving as Daniel. Granted, Daniel has had to shut away a great many important things in his life – his addictions, his twin brother, his music – but I don’t understand why that means Beaver has to perform much of the show with his eyes closed. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Perhaps I would have found the play as whole more fulfilling if I could have seen a little deeper into Daniel’s soul.
David Schwimmer is playing a scruffier, rougher version of his “Friends” TV character Ross, but this is a character type that Schwimmer plays very nicely. His Jordan is wildly imperfect but ultimately lovable. It is easy to see why Delia would fall for him.
Raver is perfectly cast as Greenwich Girl Delia Shine. Raver shows us Delia’s tender, loving and lovable side through all of her blonde perfection and materialistic manners. So what if she shows love by showering expensive gifts on others? Her love is genuine, and so are the gifts.
Allen Moyer has created a wonderful two-story set. The stage level is an open space, backed by two sliding doors of glass blocks which function well as a backdrop for everything from a hospital room to a condo to Martin’s dingy walk-up. Above the stage, hovering, always visible and always lit, is a full bar room set. From the minute you walk in to the theatre and see if you start to wonder…
At first I wondered if anyone was going to fall off of this high, narrow, crowded space. After I had seen the whole show and realized that the bar room set was used in exactly one scene, I was left wondering as to its signifigance. Someone – Leight, Ellis, Moyer – found this set very, very important to the play otherwise there would be no sense in spending all the time and money building it. That it represents the past in different ways for all the characters is clear, exactly why that is so significant is not.
Mention must be made of Matthew Spiro’s excellent sound direction and editing for this show. Music is an integral part of this play, and nothing brings you out of the magic of the theatre faster than a muffed sound cue. Spiro not only ensured that things ran smoothly, but created sound effects that believably integrated with the props, the characters and the action of the play.
“Glimmer Brothers” runs through July 25 on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The show runs two hours and fifteen minutes with one intermission. Call the box office at 413-597-3400 for tickets and information.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999