Well, playwright Susan Charlotte certainly knows a new way
to tell a story about the ramifications of the Holocaust: She sets her play The Shoemaker, about an Italian
shoemaker whose father died in the Holocaust, on 9/11. One gathers from the
cryptic dialogue of the first act that the date is supposed to be something of
a surprise, but the press materials all clearly state that this will be a 9/11
drama, so Danny Aiello, as the shoemaker, and Alma Cuervo, as a frantic woman
who bursts into his shoe repair shop and ominously intones, “Can you help me?
My sole is broken,” are forced to dance around the subject. Broken soles (and
souls) and all.
Antony Marsellis can’t impart any elegance or grace to
Charlotte’s ham-fisted play, which
practically revels in the cruelty of the world. Juxtaposing the Holocaust with
September 11 ensures that nothing about the play can be taken seriously; the
sheer trauma of both events is too overwhelming. And Charlotte’s use of both
events amounts to little more than shorthand for tragedy.
began as a one-act play, but thanks to Aiello’s urging Charlotte expanded her
work into two acts. As usual when padding out a play, that was a mistake. Had
Charlotte ended the play with Cuervo’s Hilary leaving the shoemaker huddled in terror in his dim shop, there might have been some
glimmer of humanity peeking out behind the clichés. Instead, we’re treated to a
flashback of the day before, when investment banker Louise (Lucy DeVito) leaves
her shoes to be repaired and says she’ll pick them up the next day. You can add
the du-du-dun yourself.
Rather implausibly, Louise sits a spell and has a nice, chatty
visit with the shoemaker, talking about her childhood and her beloved father,
who tried to coax her into jumping off the diving board by playing Simon Says, sternly telling her, “Simon says jump.” This will later be repeated in a
dreamy voice-over, as the shoemaker contemplates Louise’s fate in one of the
Twin Towers. DeVito’s contribution to the evening consists of working
Charlotte’s dialogue in between giggles; Melanie Griffith’s Tess McGill in Working Girl was a more believable
career woman than DeVito’s Louise.
For his part, Aiello gamely tries to remember his lines
while physicalizing torment in the grand tradition of the 19th century. He all
but presses his wrist to his forehead to accurately convey how wounded he is by
the world’s affinity for senseless violence. One is tempted to join in his
keening, forced once again to marvel at the plays that earn a full-fledged
Through Aug. 14, Acorn Theater, 410 W. 42nd St. (betw. 9th
& 10th Aves.), www.causecelebre.info; $66.25–$131.25.