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Edward Rubin


"The Glen," inspired by Glenn Loney

Kerry Mantle & Matthew Dalton Lynch. Photo by Shelter Studios.

Through Feb 16, 2019
Written, Produced, and Directed by Peter B. Hodges.
Shelter Studios, 244 West 54th Street, NYC
Buy Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-glen-tickets-54250365303
Running Time: 135 min
Reviewed by Edward Rubin

“The Glen," written, produced, and directed by Peter B. Hodges, is a ‘must see' play. Currently running through Saturday, February 16 at Shelter Studios' intimate 60-seat theater, "The Glen" is one of those plays, due to its short run, that sadly disappear as quickly as they appear. Hopefully future productions – its writing, direction, and acting is wonder-filled - will keep it alive and kicking.

Though the play, with many unexpected twists and turns, was inspired by the life of Hodge's friend and mentor, the late theater and art critic Glenn Loney (1928-2018), the play's lead character, the twenty something year old Dale Olsen (Matthew Dalton Lynch), as the playwright's program note informs us, is not Glenn Loney. Dale is only “the character that enabled me to explore questions of identity, sexuality and family while following a path not entirely unlike the path that Glenn himself would describe to me as his personal journey.'

Written in 27 short scenes, the play's six actors - all but two playing multiple roles - covers the life of Olsen family during the years 1934-1954. Jumping back and forth through the years we follow Dale's relationship with his lenient father (Len Rella) and exacting mother (Elizabeth Bove), his early and later schoolings, his close relationship with his male cousin (Barry Anderson), and his troublesome two year stint in the US Army as Educational Specialist with Transitional Unit, preparing non-English-speaking inductees for Basic Training.

With all of the jumping, back and forth from one year to the next, from one location to another, this coupled with lots of furniture coming and going in many of the scenes, the play does get a bit confusing as to where we are at any given moment. One minute we are at the family farm in 1945, the next at Fort Ord in 1951, then at a boarding house and campground that his mother runs in 1954, the at their farm in Grass Valley, California 1942, Berlin in 1952, and at a bar in 1952. Mercifully the actors, as well as the writing, both so wonderful, quickly bring us back to our senses, that is once we uncross our eyes.

Dale's relationship with his mother, despite a mutual love on both their part is prickly. And it seems to have been so from early on. Why? Well, Dale, something of a wild kid with mind of his own, as young kids often have, always seems to getting into trouble. One of his mother's weapons that she wields every now and then when she either chastises Dale or is intent in getting her way is to remind him that he was adopted and he has a much better life thanks to her.

His hard-working, rule-following mother, beautifully played by Elizabeth Bove has her own plans for Dale's future which she continually throws his way. She wants him to stay at home and help her run her various businesses which consist of a boarding house and a campground. But Dale, a mite innocent, but ultimately strong-minded, has his eye on going to college. His aim is to become a professor.

There are a number of extremely moving scenes beautifully executed by the actors, all of which hit home. Several are with his mother, two with his cousin (Noel Negly) – their attraction to each other is quite telling, as well as erotic if you mind can travel that distance, two with his US Army Defense Lawyer (a brilliant Kerry Mantle), and one with Priscillia, a prostitute in (intriguingly acted in drag by Daniel Stompor).

There are a number of extremely moving scenes beautifully executed by the actors, all of which hit home. Several are with his mother, two with his cousin (Noel Negly) – their attraction to each other is quite telling, as well as erotic if you mind can travel that distance - and two with his US Army Defense Lawyer (a brilliant Kerry Mantle)

Matthew Dalton Lynch & Len Rella. Photo by Shelter Studios.

The most unusual scenes occur between Dale and Priscilla, a male prostitute in drag, and possibly a spy from East Germany (Daniel Stompor). After several dates which included one-way sex – one is reminded of M Butterfly - the questionably innocent Dale, claims during an Army investigation that he that had no idea Priscilla was a man. It seems that she told him she is saving herself for marriage.   

However, I am not into spoilers so I will not tell spill the beans here. I will say there are a great many surprises, not only in Dale's strange Army trial for insubordination, his strangely misidentifying the sex of the Army librarian (also played by Daniel Stompor), but in the mother's long-hidden whopper of a secret – an unexpected coup de grace - revealed near the end of the play.

Cast: Matthew Dalton Lynch (Dale Olsen), Elizabeth Bove (Myrtle Olsen), Len Rella (Kenneth Olsen, Drill Instructor at Fort Ord, Military Investigator in Berlin) Thomas Grube (Uncle Bob, Major Hogge, Senior Officer at Fort Ord, Pricilla's Friend), Barry Anderson (Noel Negly, Dale's cousin, Private USAC). Kerry Mantle (Indian Joe, USAC Defense Lawyer), Donald Stompor (Librarian, Priscillia, Prostitute in Berlin). Technical: Costumes: Raxann, Costume Assistant: Nilda Morales, Lighting: Brian Pacelli, Sound: Gareth Owen.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Glenn Loney, the inspiration for this play, together with the late Bert Wechsler, inspired the founding of New York Theatre Wire. NYTW became, to our knowledge, the first place for theater criticism on the World Wide Web. Loney was NYTW's prolific senior columnist from our founding in 1996 until his death in 2018.

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