Dysfunctional Family as Remembered by an Only Child in Moving “Side Man”
Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 4, 2015
Clifford Glimmer is front and center in Bas Bleu’s moving “Side Man,” as he reviews growing up with dysfunctional parents in New York City. Will Ferrie is convincing as the Glimmer son, telling the audience of trying to be the family peacemaker, as his father thinks only of his music and his buddies, and his mother is becoming a hopeless alcoholic. Dan Tschirhart and Corinne Wieben are brilliant in their difficult roles. Tschirhart is emerging from his excellence in comedic roles to become the hapless father who virtually disintegrates before our eyes. Wieben becomes a foul-mouthed, chain smoking drunk.
A “side man” in music parlance is a musician for hire who can blend in with the band or star as a solo performer. Gene Glimmer is such a performer when the story begins in the fifties. He is a terrific musician (a jazz trumpeter), but can’t seem to be in the right place at the right time to truly be a success. His wife, Terry, becomes increasingly irritated with Gene’s inability to find a regular job, and finally goes to work as a waitress to help make ends meet.
Gene and Terry had no skills as parents, and are seen through the bewildered eyes of their son, Clifford, over the years covered by the play. The story begins at the unemployment office where Gene and his buddies meet each week or two to pick up their unemployment checks. Gene is strangely proud of his now-adult son, Clifford who is picking up his very first check at the Unemployment Office. It is as if Clifford is being honored for some sort of unearned graduation or achievement!
“Side Man” was written by Warren Leight and received Broadway’s Tony Award for Best Drama in 1998. Leight’s memory play, inspired by his father, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Bas Bleu founder Wendy Ishii noted that the play has long been one of her favorites, as she lived in the New York depicted by the story, living across the street from jazz artist Miles Davis.
The stage set by Jared Grohs, constructed by Cathy Dietz is very effective, as the play’s action moves from the Glimmer’s apartment to the Melody Lounge, the unemployment office, and various other areas of New York City.
Director Laura Jones first directed “Side Man” in 2004 at CSU. That production received First Place honors at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region VII Festival in Ashland, Oregon. Jones notes the show is one of her top ten favorite plays.
Giving excellent support to the three lead players are Cara Buckley, Chaz Grundy, Karl Perry and James Burns. Ian Schmid performs selected trumpet solos through the production.
“Side Man” tells of a life foreign to most of us, and is a moving experience looking at the challenges faced, but not always overcome. Cast is an awesome ensemble of gifted actors moving through a particularly interesting time when Rock and Roll was beginning to take over big-band lives and jobs. Due to the strong language, the show is sometimes difficult to watch/listen to, but unquestionably well done!
Through June 28, 2015
Bas Bleu Theatre
401 Pine Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
For Information: Telephone: 970/498-8949
Or visit the Web: WWW.BASBLEU.ORG