'Glimmer' a Real Bright Spot
By Howard Kissel
in Warren Leight's plays are like people living on the edge of
a volcano that is theoretically extinct but capable of producing
in Leight's new play, "Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine"
as it was in his 1999 Tony Award-winning "Side Man"
is the world of jazz.
Daniel and Martin Glimmer were up-and-coming trumpet players in
1955, as devoted to drugs and booze as they were to music. Sent
into orbit by a personal tragedy, Daniel played one astounding
gig, then put down his horn, married and became a successful businessman.
by "West Wing" star John Spencer, has remained a musician.
He fits all the stereotypes grizzled, alcoholic, woebegone
but there is something endearing about his quixotic attachment
to a world that, in 1990, when the play is set, has largely disappeared.
John Spencer as Martin in 'Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine'
looked after by Jordan, the son of the third band member. Described
as looking like an orphan even in his tuxedo, Scott Cohen projects
Daniel's daughter, Delia, at a posh Connecticut wedding, where
his own band is playing. Delia has no idea her father had been
a musician or that she has an uncle who still inhabits the forlorn
world her father left behind.
Delia is written
as if she were a spiritual descendant of Gloria Upson in "Auntie
Mame." That she is at all sympathetic owes much to Seana
Kofoed, who gives her an intelligence and a warmth not always
apparent in the script.
In some ways,
"Glimmer" is about assimilation. The longest journey
anyone takes is Daniel's. Dealing with his eccentric, recalcitrant
brother, Daniel is drawn back into music. Brian
Kerwin travels back from WASPy Connecticut to his melancholy trumpet
with incredible grace.
It is not
easy to make us believe that a man in poor health and severe poverty
has somehow triumphed over hardships and setbacks. But Spencer,
his eyes often lit with a loony fire, his gravelly voice a surprisingly
elegant instrument for his many caustic lines, makes us believe
Martin is a man too strong for life to break.
really is a play about how we husband our resources. For all the
shabbiness with which Martin surrounds himself, Spencer makes
us see that he has a kind of steely heroism.
sets are extremely evocative - especially the snapshot of the
Glimmers in 1955, which often hovers in the background. Candice
Donnelly's costumes are perfect. Donald Holder's lighting accentuates
the play's sharp moods.
by Evan Yionoulis, "Glimmer" is like an evening of good
jazz sometimes raucous, sometimes bubbly, but deeply affecting.
'GLIMMER' SHINES A LIGHT ON JAZZ WORLD
By Donald Lyons
WHEN a jazz
trumpeter is in the groove, everything he touches has heart and
soul, life and electricity. The same with writers. Take Warren
Leight. His great play "Side Man" described, with immense
affection and admiration, the jazz milieu seen through the eyes
of a boy/man who had to escape from it and the toll it exacted.
is laying down another riff on jazz, human suffering and human
happiness in "Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine."
It's a marvelous,
bitter, funny, hip play about a generation of jazzmen who made
a mess of their lives, and a new generation without their demons.
It dodges in and out of present and past; characters stand outside
themselves to comment on a scene at the same time they're enacting
in the 1950s, the twin Glimmer brothers were exciting artists
and dangerous junkies. Brother Martin continued in music and mayhem,
almost until the 1990s, when the play opens. The other, Daniel,
gave up jazz and junk and his brother in the '50s to marry a redeeming
woman, become a fabric designer and move to Connecticut.
(of TV's "West Wing") gives us a rumpled, hilarious
and acerbic - but not malicious - Martin.
He lives in
an uptown Manhattan walk-up, and his main connection to life is
a young trombonist named Jordan Shine, the son of an old jazz
colleague. Scott Cohen hits just the right notes as Jordan, bright
and ironic, loving and sensible; a young man who's poor, but not
self-destructive, and not a victim of the older generation's hangups.
We meet him
just as he meets Delia Glimmer while playing a Connecticut wedding.
Delia is, you guessed it, the daughter of Daniel Glimmer, but
totally ignorant of her dad's background in jazz - and, indeed,
of his twin brother.
does a lot to humanize Delia and reveal the mensch behind the
Greenwich Gucci goddess; she is big on presents - belts for Jordan
and tapes for Martin - but we come to see a heart behind the gestures.
She is her mother, all right, but she's humanized by her father.
father, by the way, turns up later in the person of the excellent
Brian Kerwin; he's the Connecticut edition of his doomed, walk-up
brother. He maintains a corporate apartment, to which Martin is
moved after a heart attack and a hospital stay. (He has a very
amusing take on its sterile amenities.)
a few secrets in the past, which, finally, remains an unhappy
place. But Martin sees the possibility of getting it right at
last. Poor trombonist boy and rich music-loving girl have a chance,
perhaps, at the end.
Love and music:
Why not? This is a good play, directed with beautiful economy
by Evan Yionoulis, on themes beloved by Leight.