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Ensemble Theatre
Professional Theatre
Founder: Lucia Colombi
Executive Artistic Director: Celeste Cosentino
Belong.

The word has tremendous power. It seems to be a defining feature of most people’s psyche. The word can cause great euphoria, and a sense of achievement. But, on the other hand, the word can cause great strife and disconnection that even a Xanax bar would hardly make a dent. Thus, the journey of the human spirit to belong and connect is at the core of the protagonist, brought to life by the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Written in 1921, this iconic piece of expressionist drama is a searing social commentary on the divide between the rich and poor. Yank (riveting Joseph Milan), an unthinking laborer, embarks on a search for a sense of belonging in a world controlled by the wealthy. His journey from the bowels of a transatlantic ocean liner to the wealthy neighborhoods of New York society serve as a metaphor for the struggle between the working man and the industrial complex found at the heart of the play.

Joe Milan as Yank

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Director Ian Wolfgang Hinz has created a minimalist presentation of the play, which focuses the attention of the audience on the character study of each actor. The company moves well in tandem to present this particular journey. Overall, to great effect, but there are some performances that stand out.

The show is led by Milan, who turns in an excellent interpretation of Yank. I have to state that this performance is another solid acting turn from Milan, who consistently produces engaging theatre whenever he hits the boards. In fact, I think he is one of the most consistently solid actors in the city. Always engaging. Always professional quality. Watching the arc of his pursuit to belong is heart wrenching. Every hurdle he hits feels like a punch in the gut. His decline to a caged end, caps off a searing portrayal.

Joe Milan as Yank

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Allen Branstein, as Paddy, brings some drunken realness to the party. Representing the one guy at the party that launches into psychological tormented stories, and demonstrative monologues of astute interpretations of life. Right before you put him to bed. There is a defeated quality to the old man at sea, and it is presented with great precision, even though the accent is a bit hard to unravel at points. But, the feeling is not veiled at all.

Joe Milan as Hank, Allen Branstein as Paddy, Company

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James Rankin as Long, is serving up some major mustache, along with a precise and engaging personae. As he engages the company, he creates a dramatic presence and holds the stage with confidence and bravado, while providing just below the surface tension, that beautifully increase the dynamics.

Mary Alice Beck brings her superb sense of timing and comedic skills to the role of Mildred Douglas’s (Brittany Ganser) Aunt. She is serving major face during her scenes with Ganser, and the result is delightful. Providing a strong sense of righteous indignation, and also, “you will reap what you sow child” bravado. Beautiful work. Ganser brings her sass and attitude to set up the wounding encounter with Yank.

Joe Milan as Yank

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Out of nowhere comes Keith Kornajcik, playing the Secretary of the Labor Union and dismisses Yank’s ideas of violent rebellion in favor of peaceful strikes, and the passing out of pamphlets. He does this with a strong and confident poise. His commanding voice demands attention, and his scene is delivered with pitch perfect focus.

The rest of the company is dead on. Whit Lowell, Santino Montanez, Kyle Huff, Aziz Ghrabat and August Scarpelli all deliver the goods.

Steve Vasse-Hansell, August Scarpelli, Aziz Ghrabat, Kyle Huff, & Santino Montanez.

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Director Hinz has put together a great show. Bringing an American classic to the stage with focus and spirit. Walter Boswell’s Set Design is really interesting. A raked stage with inventive coal ovens, jail cells, city skyline, and a descending cage that enhances the dramatic ending. Costume Design by Meg Parish, certainly creates the worker, and the high society, which is key to understanding the pain of Yank’s journey. Andrew Eckert’s Lighting Design brings isolated energy to scenes that are strategically placed on the sparse set. Clear delineations of where we are physically in the play. Becca Moseley and Hinz’s Sound Design was on point. Moseley also added her artistic touch with designing the society masks. Technical Director Stephen Vasse-Hassell brings all the elements together with smooth and effective precision.

Bravo.

Photo Credit: Celeste Cosentino

Cleveland Stage Alliance – Kevin Kelly

http://www.clevelandstagealliance.com

Thru December 10

Showtimes:
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2pm Sundays

Tickets:
$12-$25 General Admission

216-321-2930
Order Tickets Online
Location:
Ensemble Theatre
2843 Washington Blvd

Cleveland, OH 44118

 

Staff and Cast:

Director: Ian Wolfgang Hinz

Cast:
Joe Milan (Yank)
Alan Branstein (Paddy) 
James Rankin (Long)
Brittany Ganser (Mildred Douglas)
Mary Alice Beck (Mildred’s Aunt)
Keith Kornajacic (Secretary/Ensemble)
Santino Montanez (Ape, Yank Understudy, Ensemble)
Whit Lowell (Ensemble)
Kyle Huff (Ensemble)
August Scarpelli (Ensemble)
Aziz Ghrabat (Ensemble)
Steve Vasse-Hansell (Ensemble)