Friday, May 21, 2010


I have been a fan of multi-talented, two-time Tony-Award nominee, actress/playwright Claudia Shear, from back in the days of her tour de force shows Blowing Sideways Through Life and Dirty Blonde.

It's been quite some time since then, and I was excited when I heard she had written and was starring in a new Off-Broadway play Restoration, directed by Christopher Ashley.

As an ardent fan of Italy, as well, the combination of Claudia and a play focusing around Michelangelo's The David immediately caught my attention.

Shear plays the lead role of Giulia, a teacher and art restorer from Brooklyn who is presented with the chance of a “refresh” Michelangelo's sculpture David in time for its 500th birthday celebration in Florence. Giulia's career had taken a step backwards in recent years due to controversy related to a previous restoration project. When her old teacher Professor Williams (Alan Mandell) encourages her to apply for the position in Italy, she goes for it, gets hired, and spends a year working on the glorious sculpture's every body part, nook 'n crany, as she fantasizes about his perfection and tunes out most of the outside world, other than Max (Jonathan Cake), a hunky, Italian married father and security guard, who spends nearly 24-7 in the company of the David.

Both have issues, whether with relationships, loneliness, aging, physical attractiveness, etc.  While very different people, each "guarded" in their own way, they form a close friendship that ultimately frees them a bit of the ties that bind. 

Though there are some laughs, and tender, if not painful, moments, like when Shear opens her blouse to rub chest to chest with The David, the play lacks a real emotional pull.  It is achingly clear how alone Giulia is, both physically, and with her thoughts and desires and jealousy of beautiful women, such as Daphne (Tina Benko), a press person promoting the restoration project . However, after the first 10 minutes, you readily "get" the kind of person Giulia is, and it's challenging to be in her crusty presence for the duration of the show. You feel the painstakingness of  the restoration process, but as the months flash by on the screen on stage, I found myself looking at my watch.  And, without an intermission...and nearly 2 hours long....Restoration overstayed its welcome.

Ably acted, kudos goes to the cast including Tina Benko, Jonathan Cake, Alan Mandell, and Natalia Nogulich.

Scott Pask's simple yet effective scenic design was striking: an obelisk featuring various body parts of the statue and a scaffold of stairs and platforms, but it grew tired after a while. 

Claudia Shear and Christopher Ashley first met and worked together in the legendary NYTW production of Shear’s OBIE Award-winning solo performance piece Blown Sideways Through Life. Directed by Ashley, Blown Sideways played an extended New York run and was later filmed for PBS’s “American Playhouse.” Shear triumphantly returned to NYTW with Dirty Blonde, a comic exploration of the life of Mae West, directed by James Lapine, for which she won a Theatre World Award, as well as Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Play and Best Actress. Christopher Ashley’s directing credits include Xanadu, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical, and The Rocky Horror Show for which he received nominations for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical.

Restoration plays through June 13th, at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery. The regular performance schedule is Tuesday at 7:00pm, Wednesday through Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. There will be a special student matinee on Wednesday, May 26 at 1pm. Tickets are $65 and may be purchased online at, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by phoning Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200. For exact dates and times of performance, visit

Maintaining its commitment to making theatre accessible to all theatergoers, NYTW continues its CheapTix Sundays program in which all tickets for all Sunday evening performances at 7:00pm will cost $20. Tickets may be purchased in advance, payable in cash only, and are available in person only at the NYTW Box Office. And for all performances, student tickets cost $20, based on availability, and can be purchased in advance from the NYTW Box Office with valid student identification. The NYTW Box Office is open 1:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

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Blogger Laura Houston said...

Nice work, Robin. Great perspective.

6:54 AM  

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