“The Poor of New York ” at the Metropolitan Playhouse has it all…. great acting, costumes, direction, lighting as well as staging.
Set in 1837, New York is having a run on many of the banks in New York City. Like another show done in the early 1990’s at Metropolitan Playhouse,”An American Clock”, “The Poor of New York” shows us a tale of what will become of a very bad situation. Some will thrive in these bad times, others will be wiped out.
During the twenty year duration of this show, we watch people struggle to survive, we watch some thrive. The audience is torn between people living in squalor and others getting rich beyond there wildest dreams; many wealthy people lose everything and come to the realization that they are now poor.
The plots premise is based on what a father will do for their children. In the case of Gideon Bloodgood ( Bob Mackasek), it is robbing the Fairweather’s of their life savings, so that his daughter can live a good life. Bloodgood knows that his bank is in default and that this money will change his life for the betterment of both he and his daughter, Alida.
Written by Dion Boucicaut, an Irish playwright, “The Poor of New York” was performed by The Metropolitan Playhouse at it’s old location on West 49th street in the late 1990’s.
In a small theater, good direction and lighting is a must. Alex Roe keeps this show tight. Actors move freely and smartly throughout the economical stage with great timing and as such,the musical blends and works beautifully for the entire two hours and fifteen minutes.
The romantic lighting gives the audience members a feel that they are part of this great performance. Christopher Weston’s lighting is the back beat of evening. From the somber moments to the pinnacle of the burning building, Westons deft lighting keeps the show front and center at all times
Sidney Fortner’s costume design captures this period piece. From the aristocratic fashion of the Bloodgoods, to the poverty striken Fairweather’s, Fortner is masterful in the very detail of the haves and have nots. Specific detail went into Badger (David Logan Rankin’s), once more fortunate standing in society, to poverty striken attire.
The staging of this show was refreshingly different. Like the show itself, the stage kept moving round and round, much like the characters lives. The stage was significant of time; things changed, people changed and the wheel kept turning and with it, the story of the characters who encumbered the audience.
All the actors were very strong in their roles. Each character was touching to us. From the Bloodgoods who were never accepted in a society that they desperately wanted to belong ; Mark Livingston who lost all his wealth and status in his community or the Fairweather’s who were robbed of there place and entitlement to be a family.