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(A)loft Modulation

Spencer Hamp, Christina Toth, PJ Sosko, Jonathan Beshay, Eric T. Miller, Adam Olszewski, Charlie Hudson III, Elisha Lawson, Kevin Cristaldi photos by Joan Marcus 

(A)loft Modulation

                             By Barry Bassis

Jaymes 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.

More recently, a scholar named Sam Stephenson spent 13 years researching Smith’s life at the Jazz Loft, cataloguing the material.

(A)loft Modulation 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.

The scenes 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 play.

Eric T Miller, PJ Sosko, Charlie Hudson III, Spencer Hamp


Jonathan Beshay, Kayvon Gordon, Adam Olszewski, Eric T. Miller, and Charlie Hudson III

The back of the stage is where the musicians play

Sosko and 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.

Playwright 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 stage character.

The best 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.

Also 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 Designer).

(A)loft 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 or by calling 1-866-811-4111.