Jimi Stanton as Gabriel. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
by Julia Polinsky
great performance brightens Swedish family psychodrama
Marty’s Shadow, by the Swedish
playwright Stig Dagerman, dishes up enough family drama and psychological
scarring to make a viewer’s heart bleed. Don’t let that put you off seeing this
show; if you miss it, you’ll miss one beautifully nuanced, fully realized
performance by Jimi Stanton. Picking apart this drama will give you enough to
unravel to keep you busy for a while
Director Whitney Gail Aronson took a risk
when she cast the handsome Stanton to be Gabriel, who is repeatedly called ugly
and a pathetic, repellent loser, with no swanlike future ahead. He gives a
performance that absolutely nails the nerdy/geeky, destroyed, utterly desperate
Gabriel. It’s worth seeing the show just to watch him embody this poor schnook,
and work through his moments of fear, weakness, humiliation, cowardice,
integrity, love, and even courage, to the perfect denouement..
Marty’s Shadow, in brief: After the
war, Mme. Angelica (Jackie Maruschak) lives with her younger son, Gabriel; her
elder son, Marty, a hero of the Resistance, died in the war. Marty’s former
girlfriend, Therese (Ivette Dumeng), visits the mother and son often, to
remember Marty, and to listen to Mme. Angelica’s reminiscences.
Mme. Angelica, a brutal “monster mother,”
cannot seem to speak to her surviving son without in some way cutting at him.
Gabriel’s appearance, his abilities (or lack thereof), his fearfulness, his
poor eyesight, his so-so health: all his failings come under review, along with
unflattering contrast to Marty, the Fallen Hero son.
L-R: Jackie Maruschak,
James McKinney, Jimi Stanton, Ivette Dumeng. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.
While she spits her venom at Gabriel, Mme.
Angelica also conspires to match Therese to Victor (James McKinney), a
Resistance fighter who survived the war. Victor is one kind of shadow of Marty:
the perfect hero, handsome, confident, brave, and a total contrast to the other
shadow: Gabriel. Also, Mme. Angelica knows that Gabriel is in love with Therese
to the point of stalking her, and uses Victor to break her son’s heart, with
Perhaps the most revealing of Marty’s
shadows: the framed portrait of him his mother has commissioned. In Jen Price
Fick’s excellent scenic design, that frame is huge, gilded, and empty. Then, in
Therese’s flat, another gilt frame, over her bed, is equally empty of Marty’s
photo. So, the audience never sees him, yet we can’t get away from Marty’s
shadow, ourselves. We hear references to Marty, talk about Marty, and we see
Marty’s bedroom, with its cognac bottles just as he left them, daily dusted
with love by Mme. Angelica. We see Marty’s ties, Marty’s swords, Marty’s
lascivious pictures, Marty’s gun. (Yes, there is actually a gun on the wall in
Act 1, and by all the rules of theater, we expect it to be used by the end of
Jimi Stanton and Jackie Maruschak.
Marty’s Shadow was inspired by Stig
Dagerman’s 1947 meeting with Etta Federn, a writer, translator, and assimilated
Jew who had a significant literary career in pre-War Germany. She survived
WWII, hiding in France, where her elder son was a captain in the Resistance,
killed near the end of the war; her younger son survived.
A few weeks after they met, Dagerman sat down
to write this psychological drama inspired by Federn and her sons. Years later,
the play was translated into English by Nancy Pick, who is related to Federn,
and Lo Dagerman, who is Stig Dagerman’s daughter. Unravel that level of
family drama. Or don’t. But definitely go see Jimi Stanton’s terrific
performance in Marty’s Shadow.
the Gene Frankel Theatre
24 Bond Street, NY NY
$20 general admission; seniors and students $15. Student groups $10.
3/11 @ 8:00, 3/12 @ 1:00, 3/16 @ 8:00, 3/18 @ 2:00, 3/19 @ 1:00, 3/22 @ 8:00,
3/24 @ 8:00, 3/25 @ 8:00, 3/26 @ 1:00, 3/30 @ 8:00, 4/1 @ 2:00.