This review of Bobby Sobel's The Laurel Bay Country Club Burglar at the Hudson Guild Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
The Laurel Bay Country Club Burglar
Written & Directed by Bobby Sobel
Hudson Guild Theatre
441 West 26th Street
New York, New York 10001
The Laurel Bay Country Club Burglar is being presented as part of the Thespis Theater Festival, which runs from July 11, 2016 to October 2, 2016 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. The festival is also a competition awarding a top prize of $3,500.00 for the best play or musical. This entry is a one-act play written by Bobby Sobel, a director, producer, writer, and actor in one-act plays and independent films. His other plays include The South Bronx, You Can't Hustle A Hustler and Big Apple Song-A-Gram.
This story involves Veronica and Richard Miles, a Jewish couple having financial difficulties. Richard, the hen-pecked husband, explains things are so bad, he might not have the money to continue paying his wife's membership dues to The Laurel Bay Country Club, a luxury his social status-conscious wife doesn't want to give up. During Scene One, they hear a report on the radio regarding some artwork stolen from the Mayor's Mansion by a burglar who will probably sell it on the black market. Veronica offers to help in whatever way she can and Richard jokingly says, "You can always rob a bank. They have plenty of stimulus money." In Scene Two, the Miles visit the home of Florence & Morris Bronstein, the former who is President of The Laurel Bay Country Club. Mrs. Bronstein tries to solicit their support for Sheila Gelber, who is running for the U.S. Senate. Veronica Miles discovers the Bronsteins have original artwork in their home and that Mr. Bronstein often forgets to set the security alarm when he leaves on business trips. In Scene Three, after learning that Mr. Bronstein is heading to Houston with Sheila and that Mrs. Bronstein is traveling to San Francisco, Veronica decides she is going to climb in through their window to steal the artwork. It turns out the Bronsteins are not out of town. While hiding, she learns Mr. Bronstein is having an affair with Sheila and that Mrs. Bronstein has brought home a male escort named Lash LaRue Jr., a Cowboy Rodeo wannabe who carries a leather whip with him wherever he goes. When all is revealed, everyone is compelled to reach a "you don't ask and we don't tell" accommodation in order to avoid a scandal.
Many Jewish stereotypes are depicted in this one-act play. These morally challenged characters seem to think nothing of their indiscretions and, at the end of the story, go back to their everyday lives as if nothing happened. In fact, Veronica is actually rewarded for her criminal act. Her husband Richard is as dumb as a brick and doesn't even know what sushi is. Veronica talks behind Sheila's back saying she is so stupid "she couldn't predict the winner of a two-horse race if one of them was running backward." The Bronsteins are very patriotic and pro-Israel but they hate Arabs and many other people they perceive to be different or deviant. Mr. Bronstein hates the Japanese but that didn't stop him from going to Japan and deciding to import "organic seaweed" (the crunch you taste when you eat it is sand). Sheila, of course, is sleeping with a married man and when she suggests they stop what they are doing, Mr. Bronstein's solution is to give her Quaaludes (after all, they are very small) to make her more compliant. Lash LaRue Jr., the escort, claims he merely provides "a service for generous ladies" but ultimately admits to having sex for money when he blurts out that "orgies cost more." These are all horrible individuals very few people would want to hang out with. It was difficult to be in their presence even for the 45 minutes I was watching this play.
It is good to see community theater is alive and well in Manhattan giving local actors the opportunity to perform no matter what their talent level might be. Violetta Anna Licari was Veronica Miles, a spoiled Jewish-American Princess, and Bobby Sobel, the playwright, played her husband Richard Miles. Both overacted and stumbled over their lines. Ms. Licari was marginally better later in the play when she was exposed as a burglar (who, for some unexplained reason, could not climb out of the same open window she climbed in through). It was also really annoying that Veronica, during the burglary, kept her cell phone on and continued to receive calls from her husband wondering where she was. This was totally unbelievable! Arlene Sparaco adequately portrayed Sheila Gelber, the Senate Candidate but for most of the play, she was just grinning and acting stupid since she was supposed to be tripping on Quaaludes. What woman nowadays takes someone else's pills, especially when they are offered to her by a man who wants to have sex with her? Then, in the end, her friends let her leave with Lash LaRue Jr. in his "pick up truck" despite her impaired condition. Some friends!
George Flowers did a fine job as Morris Bronstein but his character had to literally wonder out loud whether his "cane was loaded." In real life, pointing a cane at a burglar while in your American flag boxer shorts will probably not be the best weapon to use in those circumstances. George Tsalikis was well cast as Lash LaRue, Jr. but the character was a bit too shallow to be interesting. The star of the show was Tym Moss, who played Florence Bronstein. He has an excellent stage presence and is a very talented actor. Even though Tym Moss is a man, he played the role of Mrs. Bronstein "straight" and did not seek any cheap laughs based on the fact he was dressed in drag. In fact, all his clothing and makeup were perfect and nothing was exaggerated. Tym Moss is a bright light and a shining star who stole the show and gave the audience a very memorable performance. He is very charismatic and projected well. Tym Moss performed the role as any biological female might have, except, in my opinion, he did it better! Kudos to Bobby Sobel, the playwright, for making the bold decision to cast Tym Moss in the role. Bold Choices sometimes do bring Big Rewards!
The Laurel Bay Country Club Burglar provides some entertainment value but left me wondering why the playwright felt this story needed to be told. Perhaps he was suffering from "temporary insanity" when he wrote it!