'Cedars' World Premier starring James Naughton

Berkshire Theater Festival hosts a World Premier

By: - Jul 30, 2014

Gabe James Naughton The Naughtons Cedars

World Premiere at Berkshire Theater Festival in Stockbridge, Ma.

Book by Erik Tarloff
Direction by Keira Naughton
Scenic Design by Hugh Landwehr
Costume Design by Laurie Chruba Kohn
Lighting Design bySolomonWeisbard
Resident Composer/Sound Designer, Scott Killian
Stage Manager, Betsy Selman
Cast: James Naughton (Gabe)

The Fitzpatrick Main Stage
Berkshire Theatre Group
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
July 23-August 9

By Maria Reveley

It takes a lot of courage to star in a one man show set in a hospital room at Cedars-Sinai, in Los Angeles, where the main character is speaking to a comatose father, unseen on stage, for the entire play. This is what James Naughton has chosen to do, and after seeing his performance, you will know why.

He has risen to the challenge.

Depicting Gabe, a 59 year old lawyer, whose life is unraveling, Naughton uses all his formidable acting skills to make this character alive, and someone you care about, even though he is not particularly likable. It takes a lot of acting charisma and talent to be Gabe for 90 continuous minutes.

Naughton, who has won two Tonys as ‘Best Actor in a Musical’ for Chicago and City of Angels (he also won a Drama Desk Award for the latter), switches to drama on this stage.

He has appeared on-screen in Gossip Girl, Hostages and The Devil Wears Prada, playing
Meryl Streep’s husband. He has also been in independent films like Childless with Barbara Hershey and in The Weinstein Company’s Factory Girl playing Sienna Miller’s father. His other Broadway credits include Democracy, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun, I Love My Wife, Whose Life Is It Anyway, Drinks Before Dinner and Losing Time.
Naughton has also directed Arthur Miller’s Tony nominated production of The Price and Paul Newman in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

Naughton has brought all his theatre experience to the World Premier of Cedars, and with the help of the finely tuned direction of his daughter, Keira Naughton, he has let the audience experience the complex emotions of a man we get to know as a son, husband, father, lawyer and, at times, complete wreck. Naughton’s voice is a true instrument, displaying anger, humor, despair, bitterness, weakness, fear.
In the first scene, Gabe enters with anger, complaining about the hospital and describing it as a ‘JCC for invalids.’ As he speaks to his comatose Dad, he tells him ‘consciousness is overrated.’ There is an undercurrent of sadness he conveys under the humor that underlines this remark.

When Gabe enters the second scene, he is more subdued, talking about his wife Jessie, and then veering into his feelings about his sister, Deb. Deb has been following men all her life, and he asks his Dad, ‘Ever wonder what it’s like to be a crazy lady?’

In the third scene, Gabe comes in troubled about his marriage. His wife wants a trial separation, and his response is: ‘Marriage is a working farm, not a petting zoo.’ He talks about his value on the open market, and hers and compares them. Even with this crass talk, Naughton can arouse sympathy in the audience, as you see him struggle with his disappointment and humiliation.

As the next scene progresses, Gabe gets graphic about his insecurities regarding his wife’s new boyfriend, and his bitterness is often masked by his humor and sarcasm.
In the final scene, much of Gabe’s anger returns, aimed at his Dad.

While there is good writing in this play, with many sharp and funny lines, it can use editing. Erik Tarloff, the playwright, has extensive writing experience in movies and television. He has written over one hundred situation comedy scripts, including multiple episodes of M*A*S*H, All in the Family, the Bob Newhart Show and others.
Some of the language is too smart for the situation, and the situation itself is a difficult one to portray on stage. Some of the sexual content seems forced and too graphic, not serving the development of the character.

The play is worth seeing for Naughton’s performance. The minute he walks on stage, he has your attention. And he keeps it for ninety minutes.
As a theatre goer, can you ask for anything more?