SIDE MAN by Warren Leight, directed by Andy McKim, with Oliver Becker, Brandon McGibbon and Jane Spidell. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman). Runs to December 15, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $25-$31, Sunday pwyc-$15, stu/srs discount. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
side man rocks at times, but too often its beat is sluggish. The problem is less the Tarragon production than Warren Leight's script, an episodic memory play that never demonstrates one of its central themes -- the power of music in its characters' lives.Like The Glass Menagerie, Side Man is narrated by the son in a tension-filled family who both shows us and comments on his world. Clifford (Brandon McGibbon) introduces us to his trumpet-playing father, Gene (Oliver Becker) and anger-filled mother, Terry (Jane Spidell). Also part of the extended family are his father's brass-section cronies and a waitress who's intertwined in their lives.
Director Andy McKim plays various riffs on these people, but the show is only fitfully successful. The gang -- Laura de Carteret, Oliver Dennis, Jim Jones and Tony Nappo -- offer moments of humorous camaraderie, but Leight's characters are only sketches. McGibbon isn't emotionally convincing as the boyhood Clifford, forced to be the buffer between his parents.
The production's key strength comes from that mismatched pair. Becker's Gene, quiet and out of synch with the world, is nicely understated and ultimately moving, though the playwright rarely shows why music is central to his life.
He makes a fine contrast to Spidell's honest, raw Terry, a disappointed, alcoholic wife shackled to a man she can't email@example.com