Sunday, April 07, 2013


Playwright Joe Gilford's parents were Jack and Madeline Gilford, and Finks is his fictionalized account of how the "Red Scare" of the 1950s affected their lives and careers. Finks has all the makings of a devastating drama: fascinating characters, genuine conflict, cowardice and heroism, life-and-death decisions. And yet it doesn't surpass so-so.

Aaron Serotsky, Miriam Silverman
Perhaps it is the lead performance by Aaron Serotsky as Mickey Dobbs, the Jack Gilford character. He replaces Gilford's easy charm with labored smarm. Another problem is Joe Gilford's decision to use some people's real names but not other people's. Is this supposed to clue us in that certain characters are more fictionalized that others? (This is particularly odd when Jack and Madeline Gilford's names are mentioned as though they are separate people from the Dobbses.) And does this mean the Mickey's big speech is completely fictional? Somewhat fictional? I assume it is completely fictional, but who knows? A lot of other parts seem to be verbatim from historical transcripts.

Still another problem is that the show detours into dance numbers that are fun but hurt the its pacing (I think the story would have been more effective as a trimmed-down one act of 90 or 100 minutes). And the cross-cutting between a nightclub and a senate hearing is awkward, taking away much more than it adds (though that may be director Giovanna Sardelli's fault rather than Joe Gilford's).

These faults don't quite sink Finks. The story remains reasonably compelling, and Miriam Silverman is dynamic and likeable as Natalie, the actress and activist who becomes Mrs. Dobbs. The supporting cast is strong, and Kenney M. Green adds period flavor with his piano playing. The scenery by Jason Simms is attractive and efficient.

Finks' biggest strength is this: Mickey himself is neither a hero or a villain. He's not political; he ends up peripherally involved because he is attracted to Natalie and she asks him to perform at her events. Some of their friends end up furious at him, feeling that he is not committed to their cause--and he isn't! But he just can't accept the House on Un-American Activities Committee's stance that there is something wrong with organizing for, oh, civil rights, equal pay, and helping one's fellow human. He would prefer not to care at all; he just wants to be a comedian. But life and HUAC have other plans for him.

(4th row center, press ticket)

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