Playwright Leight was the son of a side man, himself. His script pulls no punches about the dysfunctions of that world, but it also conveys a genuine and delectably well-versed affection for it, and a sadness for the decline of its golden age. He knows intimately these characters and how to illuminate them, and Stelk's cast is beautifully attuned to the spirit. In one of the play's most exquisite scenes, Gene, Al, and Ziggy listen to a transcendent live bootleg cassette of their hero (and our protagonist's namesake), trumpeter Clifford Brown. Scarcely a word is spoken; for a full five minutes, we watch the musicians do nothing but respond to the music. In their bodies and faces we see shifting awe and giddiness, pangs and joy. It might be orgasm, or a narcotic's high, or satori.
Megan Grumbling can be reached at email@example.com.
SIDE MAN | by Warren Leight | Directed by Sara Stelk | Presented by Freeport Players, upstairs at 140 Main St, Freeport | through October 4 | 207.865.2220
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