A Man of No Importance is the last show at the Classic Stage Company with John Doyle as Artistic Director. Mr. Doyle also designed and directed this show, and it displays most of the hallmarks associated with him. The bare stage, the cast playing many of the musical instruments, and a marvelous cast working as one.
|A.J. Shively and Jim Parsons
Jim Parsons is Alfie Byrne, the titular man of no importance. Alfie is the leader of a community theater group in Dublin made up of friends and neighbors. The local members aren’t particularly good actors, but they are supportive and enjoyable people. They have fun and enjoy their time together. As for Alfie, he seems to come alive when presents these plays in the town. Alfie is enthralled by “art” and “honesty”. In particular he loves John Keats, a famous gay poet. A single man of a certain age, Alfie and his sister live together as she tries to marry him off. In part so she can begin her own life and loves. Mare Whinningham plays Alfie’s sister with a combination of love and exasperation.
The Theater Group meets in a church basement, and the resident Father has pushed back on some of Alfie's more controversial choices. But Alfie is not deterred. He wants to stage Salome by Oscar Wilde. Including the provocative dance of the seven vails. The cast knows this might antagonize the church more, but they agree to follow Alfie. Alfie finds his perfect Salome, Adele Rice (Shereen Ahmed), one day will working the bus. Through sheer persistence he convinces Miss Rice to join the group. Alfie’s sister dreams of setting Alfie up with Miss Rice, and moving on with her life. Alfie, on the other hand, dreams of having her as Salome and his friend Robbie Fay (a great A. J. Shively) as John the Baptist.
But then, two things turn Alfie’s world upside down. First a member of the company tells the church about the play, and the cast is kicked out of the basement. The Father refuses to have a "pornographic" play performed in a church. And then Alfie, for the first time in his history decides to talk to a man that seems to have been flirting with him. And the man instead beats Alfie and outs him to the entire town as a poofter.
Jim Parsons brings a truth of character to Alfie. His outing is less surprising that it is inevitable, and he knows what his theater group will say. And, at first, they live down to his expectation.
The show does suffer a few lulls, whether by design or not. But in the main, A Man of No Importance moves well in a simple story and setting. Mr. Parsons singing is fine and clear, but some of the other voices move with an ease that is enviable.
It is a moving piece and the payoff is well worth the time involved. The show itself is a fitting farewell to John Doyle in his final show with the Classic Stage Company.