Spencer Hamp, Christina Toth, PJ Sosko,
Jonathan Beshay, Eric T. Miller, Adam Olszewski, Charlie Hudson III, Elisha
Lawson, Kevin Cristaldi photos by Joan Marcus
By Barry Bassis
Jorsling's new play, (A)loft Modulation is having its world premiere, at
A.R.T./New York Theatres.
The work is
based on actual events: A famous photographer, W. Eugene Smith, left Life
Magazine in 1955, abandoning his wife and four children. From upper class
Croton-on-Hudson he moved to a rundown loft, at 821 Sixth Avenue, in the flower
district, where he lived from 1957-1964. During this period, he took 40,000
photographs of life in the loft; in the adjoining space famous jazz musicians
held jam sessions. Smith wired the building and made 4,500 hours of audio tape.
recently, a scholar named Sam Stephenson spent 13 years researching Smith’s
life at the Jazz Loft, cataloguing the material.
is a fictionalized account with Myth Williams, the character based on Smith
(P.J. Sosko), Way Tonniver (played by Eric T. Miller) as Smith's next-door
neighbor, Juilliard music teacher Hall Overton; and Charlie Hudson III, Elisha
Lawson, Spencer Hamp, Christina Toth, and Buzz Roddy as other visitors to the
loft, which includes a policeman, drug addicts and prostitutes.
involving Williams’s loft take place on the left side of the stage; the right
side presents 2019 scenes involving Steve Samuels (Kevin Cristaldi), who
becomes obsessed with organizing the recordings and it causes him to lose his
job and destroys his marriage. The back of the stage is where the musicians
Eric T Miller, PJ Sosko, Charlie Hudson III,
Jonathan Beshay, Kayvon Gordon, Adam Olszewski,
Eric T. Miller, and Charlie Hudson III
The back of
the stage is where the musicians play
Cristaldi are convincing in their roles, but as written, the two obsessives are
rather hard to take. While there are some compelling monologues about art, sex
and other topics, the play is verbose and overlong.
Jaymes Jorsling and director Christopher McElroen are obviously talented and
artistically ambitious but this work should be pruned. Perhaps the section on
Sam Stephenson should be eliminated altogether. The play strains to create a
similarity between him and Smith, both sacrificing financial security for
artistic pursuits. However, in actuality, Stephenson became an instructor and
director of the Jazz Project at Duke University’s Center for Documentary
Studies, which he parlayed into a book, an NPR radio series and a traveling
exhibition. Thus, he wasn’t exactly facing starvation, the possible fate of his
element is the music, which perfectly fits the jazz of the late 50’s and early
60’s. The band consists of Jonathan Beshay (saxophone and bandleader), Kayvon
Gordon (drums), and Adam Olszewski (bass). The four-time GRAMMY-nominated
pianist/composer Gerald Clayton penned the original music.
praiseworthy are the creative team, which includes Troy Hourie (Scenic
Designer), Elivia Bovenzi (Costume Designer), Becky Heisler McCarthy (Lighting
Designer), Andy Evan Cohen (Sound Designer) and Adam J Thompson (Video
Modulation runs Tuesday–Saturday at 7pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at
2pm. Tickets are $35-$55. A.R.T./NY Theatres are located at 502 West 53rd
Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Purchase tickets online at
www.theamericanvicarious.org or by calling 1-866-811-4111.