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Review: The Subject Was Roses

By Gary Wien


(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- Timmy Cleary returns from war, but finds himself smack in the middle of the on-going battle between his mother and father in Frank Gilroy's The Subject Was Roses, a powerful family drama playing at George Street Playhouse now through March 6. Michael Mastro, who was part of the cast for George Street's productions of The Pillowman and The Sunshine Boys, returns as director. He leads an exceptional cast comprised of Chris Wendelken (Timmy Cleary), Lee Sellars (John Cleary), and Stephanie Zimbalist (Nettie Cleary).

Set in the Bronx just after the end of World War II, the play revolves around the personal relationships of the three and how a few years apart has changed each of them.

Timmy's mother, Nettie, harbors dark secrets about her husband that she doesn't reveal to her son, but which have deeply affected her marriage. She's waited years for her son to come home, but Timmy's return isn't what she expected.

John, Timmy's father, is a hard-working Irish Catholic with a mean temper. He couldn't believe his boy, who was always sick, would make it in the army. John, who never had the opportunity to go into the service himself, now sees his son in a new light - as a man.

Together, Timmy's parents vie for his attention the way divorced parents fight for custody of their children. While Nettie thought she would have her boy all to herself, she finds herself battling an image of her husband that exists in Timmy's head. Meanwhile, the longer Timmy stays in the house the more things become clearer to him; drinking all night isn't the reason he's getting sick each day, and his parents' happiness is just a facade.

The play does a wonderful job of showing an intense level of conflict between the three family members and detailing how sometimes, even a kind gesture, can go terribly wrong. Both the acting and directing is perfect. Sometimes plays like this, which live off of conflict, can be a bit difficult to sustain interest, but The Subject Was Roses actually makes it hard to look away. The audience knows something will be resolved, but isn't sure how -- or who -- will provide the resolution.

The Subject Was Roses premiered on Broadway in 1964 and ran for nearly 900 performances. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1965, and took home both the Tony Award and New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, beating out The Odd Couple and Tiny Alice.

In case her name sounds familiar, Stephanie Zimbalist was indeed one of the stars of the popular television show, Remington Steele, in addition to a fine theatrical resume. Lee Sellars was recently seen on Broadway in the revival of West Side Story and was part of George Street's production of The Pillowman a few years back. Chris Wendelken, who does a fine job as Timmy, makes his Equity debut here after spending the last year touring the United States and Europe with Big Dance Theater in Comme Toujours Here I Stand.

George Street Playhouse is located at 9 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, NJ. For more information on the theatre visit http://www.gsponline.org


Photos by T. Charles Erickson



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Event calendar
Saturday, Mar 23, 2019


MUSIC

Earthshare NJ Rocks @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

GEORGE & BRENDA'S ANNIVERSARY BASH @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 12:00pm


LIONEL RICHIE @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

Brute Force & Daughter of Force @ Randy Nows Man Cave, Bordentown - 8:00pm

Diva Moments @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 7:30pm

Janet Gardner LIVE at DingBatz @ Dingbatz, Clifton - 7:00pm

Family Matinee: Tito and the Birds @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 4:30pm

Kashmir: The Live Led Zeppelin Experience @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

DvoŇô√°k | Liebermann | Mazzoli @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 8:00pm

TEN (TRIBUTE TO PEARL JAM) @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm

THE GREEN PLANET BAND at LIBERTY TAVERN! @ LIBERTY TAVERN, Staten Island - 6:00pm


Panama Dead @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Mamma Mia @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Native Gardens @ Eagle Theatre, Hammonton - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

The Source by Jack Canfora @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

Sassy Mamas presented by Dunbar Repertory Company @ Middletown Arts Center, Middletown - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

New Jersey Theatre Alliance's Stages Festival @ WheatonArts, Millville - 2:00pm

CURIOUS GEORGE: THE GOLDEN MEATBALL @ The Growing Stage: The Childrens Theatre of New Jersey, Netcong - 4:00pm

FINDING NEVERLAND @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:00pm

Ken Ludwigs The Gods of Comedy @ Matthews Theatre @ McCarter Theatre, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Theo @ Marion Huber Theater @ Two River Theater, Red Bank - 3:00pm and 8:00pm

A Man and His Prostate with Ed Asner @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm


COMEDY

Brian Regan @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm


DANCE

Sensory Friendly Theatre: NJ Ballet's SLEEPING BEAUTY @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 2:00pm


KIDS

HudsonWay Immersion Camp FREE FAMILY DAY @ HudsonWay Immersion School, Stirling - 12:00pm

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