In what was one of the best set designs and projection art content design I have seen, Yael Pardess, keeps the play interesting, “The Stone Witch” opened at the Westside Theatre/Upstairs . The play is about three characters, Simon Grindberg, Peter Chandler and Clair Forlorni. Peter, a young prospect writer is asked by Clair to go up to Simon’s cabin and work with him. Clair is the editor for Harper Collins and needs one last book from Simon to fill out his contract to the publisher. The last book that Simon had written was twelve years ago and she offers Peter a bonus if it can be done by Christmas.
We first meet Simon in the second seen, he is eccentric, sharp tonged and somewhat bitter about where life has taken him. To help him get started on his new book, Peter offers him an idea he is working on. It is sort of a collaboration as well as an opinion from the man who was once regarded as the king of children’s books. Simon is more interested in swimming, drinking and trying to give Peter life lessons about his experiences in writing. It’s almost as if Simon wants a play mate rather then a hand with his new book, partly because he is still child like, also because dementia has set in. He frequently talks to Bella even though she is not in the room. He asks Peter questions and then gets mad when he doesn’t like the answers. Simon uses Jewish Shtick to try to get his point across. Peter,(Rupak Ginn) is a very believable strong character in the play. He gets spun around like the rookie that he is, he also can stand up for himself.
The last half of the play we see some work on the new book, but not much of it. The writer let’s us see Simon for who he was, what he was, how he grew up and what his greatest fears were. The play begins to go in many untied up directions, however. His dementia is not really related to the play, his life lessons and not resonate to help Peter-Peter with his life, his advise to him is not inspirational to the audience. What was even more confusing is why did Bitterman take us into Simon’s friend’s father and his mothers holocaust past? How was this relevant to the play? It would have been better if Bitterman stayed on point with the two of them interacting more about Simon and his thoughts on writing and life in general, and not get so specific about things that did not directly affect him. His mom made them move every two years in case the Nazi’s came to round them up? This was not relevant, nor meaningful.
Zuckerman, the director did a good job in making the three characters meaningful, he had us see all there ideas and flaws in a very under toned way. If he had better writing in this play, he could have done so much more with this cast, but the last 45 minutes the writer fails us.What was a good show, could have been a great one. Through the 90 intermission-less minutes, we go on a roller coaster ride that has good moments and some not so good.