By Jack Rico
The 1-4-0: #IfOnly is an entrancing play that “explores a love and a racial equality that might have been.” This is the play that will tug at one’s heartstrings.
The Gist: “If Only,” written by Thomas Klingenstein and directed by Christopher McElroen, goes in depth on the “What would have happened if I would’ve done __?” With references of President Abraham Lincoln, the play portrays the emotional and moral turmoil that the characters have lived with throughout their lives; their regrets and ambitions. There are times that the audience will forget that this is a play since it is so perfectly molded to mirror the curveballs that life throws at us.
What Works: You will not be able to look away from this captivating four person play. Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) delivers a heart-wrenching, starry eyed performance as she dons the character of Ann Astorcott, a vivacious homemaker whose wings got cut off way too early in life. The audience can see her character grow, from her well measured and timely mannered dialogue with Richmond Hoxie (Henry Astorcott) to then rising from the ashes as a Phoenix set free when an old flame, Mark Kenneth Smaltz (Samuel Johnson), pays her a visit. In that visit we see a wide range of emotions that make this play absolutely breathtaking. Throughout the play, the audience was thoroughly engaged, from the witty one-liners and clever dialogue to the heart wrenching and heartwarming confessions. The stage set up also adds to the candor of this play, from the lighting that sets the mood to the lively music coming from a phonograph. The Cherry Lane Theater is a very intimate place. You will feel as if you’re on stage with them rather than feeling distanced from the protagonists and plot.
What Doesn’t Work: The play runs for only an hour and twenty-minutes, but sadly it felt much shorter than that; as an audience member I left wanting more. Maybe it’s just the hopeless romantic that resides in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not, one leaves that theater with the desire to know what would’ve really happened if Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated, to know what would’ve happened if Ann’s and Samuel’s loved would’ve been socially accepted it from the beginning. But that’s the beauty of theater, it takes us away from the reality of life, be it harsh or ideal, into this ethereal world where one can be as absorbed as we want to.
Curtain Call or House Call: Curtain call. It’s witty and romantic, the romance unfolds before your very eyes, making you aww and laugh right on cue. “If Only” opens August 27th at the Cherry Lane Theater, don’t miss out and wonder what would’ve happened if…