‘A Man of No Importance’ Offers an Alternative to Summer Entertainment
A Man of No Importance plays at the Westminster Arts Center this June.
When superheroes have saturated the movie theaters and have even started swinging in and spinning webs on Broadway, where can one turn to find an alternative to typical summer fare?
The 4th Wall Theater company answers that question and sates the hunger of New Jersey’s theater-goers with its production of “A Man of No Importance”. Playing until June 18th, this one is not to be missed.
However, that recommendation comes with a caveat. This is not a “light” musical. If you are familiar with this play then you already know that it is an emotional mix of humor, pathos, and the bittersweet mess that is life. If you are not familiar with the story then I will try not to give away the twists and turns that stunned me upon my first viewing.
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around Alfie Byrne (Jan Topoleski), a bus ticket-taker in 1960s Dublin who’s true passion lies in the theater. The play opens as he finds a young woman (Maggie Joy Anderson) to star in his production of “Salomé” along with his motley group of friends. As the character’s lives become tangled and entangled, more and more is revealed about each rich and complex individual.
Luckily, Director Kate Swan has a superb cast at her disposal to bring those characters to life. Topoleski, like a younger Tom Wilkinson, makes Alfie heartbreaking and brave and utterly authentic. And this praise comes with proof. Audible gasps and sniffles could be heard in the audience when Alfie faced the most trying moments of the play.
But all the players, doing fine Irish accents, bring the audience into this world. So much so that it’s almost difficult to concentrate on the leads when you’re wondering what the other characters are up to. Some of the younger actors seem to lose a bit of their accent when singing but it is easily forgivable when they sing so well (Ian Michael Stuart’s “The Streets of Dublin” was particularly impressive).
Swan praised them, “I’m so proud of this company in particular. It’s been an extraordinary experience to direct them.”
That’s not to say that those behind the curtain didn’t impress, as well. The Irish-tinged violins and the evocative yet simple lighting all created a wholly immersive experience for the viewers. You truly become lost in the story.
Sam Sherwood, visiting Westminster for the first time said, “I think the performances are excellent, the music is excellent. I especially enjoyed Adele Rice played by Maggie Joy Anderson. I think the lead (Topoleski) was great.”
He added, “I think they really brought to life the setting of the play. It kind of sucked you in to that time and place.”
Also a first-timer, Britte Steele said “I think they did an excellent job, I really do.” She also added that the play is even fuller if you are familiar with Oscar Wilde’s life (the late writer makes an appearance in Alfie’s dreams).
After the show Swan explained why the 4th Wall chose this play.
“You aren’t going to see ‘Annie’ or ‘Oklahoma’ here. We’re going to do something that’s a little on the edge and a little off the wall. Something unusual. Something that tells a story that we feel needs to be told.”
Production Manager, Gwen Ricks-Spencer, added, “We have a pretty sophisticated audience here. You don’t just need to go to New York City to see things. There are places here in New Jersey that are producing things like this.”
“A Man of No Importance” will run until June 18th at Westminster Arts Center (449 Franklin Street, Bloomfield). Call 973.748.9008 to reserve tickets. Next season is the 15th Anniversary and starts with “The Spitfire Grill” in October. Season tickets are available now at www.4thwalltheatre.org.