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Project Rushmore Theatre Company

Review By: Times Square Chronicles:

Project Rushmore Theatre Company is launching its second summer season with two plays that have a theme of the American Spirit. World Of Sinatras, written by Sean O’Connor and directed by Sydnie Grosberg Ronga, had its opening night at The ArcLight Theatre last Wednesday. Set from 1944 to1993 in a New Jersey suburb, this play chronicles the life of the Murdoch family as they develop alongside the turmoil of American history. As America undergoes the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the assassination of the Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King Jr., and the take off of pop culture with sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, the Murdoch’s undergo their own brewing instability.

Sam Murdoch, played by the strikingly talented Jeff Rubino, tells the story of his family from start to finish. Rubino evolves from a cape-wearing 4-year-old into a hardened teenager, and it is like watching somebody grow up at light speed in two hours. Meanwhile Dennis Ostermaier and Danielle Delgado are strikingly captivating as Jack and Marie Murdoch; it is rare to see two characters so deep and complex come alive on stage. Ostermaier should be commended for his performance as Jack; his spiraling decline with his rages that morph into domestic abuse is breathtaking and scarily believable. Not to mention that Delgado has the audience’s hearts throbbing for Marie and her struggles as she tries to deal with a husband who is out of control. The acting at the forefront of this play is without a doubt, top-notch. However, as great as the acting and historical context is in World Of Sinatras, what’s important here is that Project Rushmore Theatre Company has a goal of “Exploring the American Spirit” with its plays; World of Sinatras could not be any more American. A fantastic trip through 50 years of momentous American history, this play runs the gamut with social undertones and domestic issues that pack a punch…Sean O’Connor has written a chronicle of American history along side the captivating story of a family.

Project Rushmore Theatre Company’s summer season runs until August 3rd at the ArcLight Theatre at 152 West 71st Street.

StageBuddy Review: WORLD OF SINATRAS

At the Arclight Theatre through August 3.

The Project Rushmore Theatre Company presents plays that “offer inspiration and insight into American culture”, and their latest production, World of Sinatras by Sean O’Connor, certainly lives up to the company’s goal. O’Connor’s play, a slice of dysfunctional suburban middle-class America during the fifties and sixties, centers around the character of Sam Murdoch, telling the story of his childhood and adolescence against a backdrop of American politics and pop culture. The play (directed by Sydnie Grosberg Ronga) explores the traditional themes of coming of age in the USA — first love, drugs, search for identity, typical suburban angst stuff. In the case of Sam Murdoch, his experience is also shaped by an environment of substance-abuse and violence.

The story begins with Sammy’s parents — she an upper-class French woman, he an ambitious American psychiatrist — meeting in France during World War II, and at once we get a rather mechanical glimpse of how Officer Murdoch’s temper will destroy his family and ultimately himself. As little Sammy, an only child, grows up, he has to deal with his alcoholic father’s temper as well as his prejudices and machismo (“you don’t want to play the piano! The piano is for faggots! You’re a born scientist!”). His mother, a frustrated artist and oppressed housewife, pulls him in a completely different direction (“You’re a born artist! Your poems are magnificent! Be a painter!”). As Sammy grows older, he develops a close friendship with a drug dealer, Rooster (a weirdo who thinks he’s the Messiah), and becomes a third generation substance abuser.

The central character is beautifully performed by Jeff Rubino. Dr. Murdoch is wonderfully portrayed by Dennis Ostermeier.  And the mother, played by the wonderful Danielle Delgado, is the most believable of the characters and the most sympathetic personality in the play — even more so than the father who’s had much to overcome in life and is so representative of the Irish American experience in post war America.  World of Sinatras…a wonderful cast of professional players…will be performed in rep with Exquisite Potential through August 3 at the Arclight Theatre. For more information, check out Project Rushmore’s website.

nytheatre now: World of Sinatras

Indie Artists on New Plays World of Sinatras

by Wendy Coyle · July 18, 2014

The theater landscape of American dysfunctional family ranges in location from Eugene O’Neill’s  seaside Connecticut to Sam Shepard’s Illinois to Tracy Lett’s Pahuska, Oklahoma so why not make room for Sean O’Connor’s suburban New Jersey?  World of Sinatras gives us WWII soldier Jack Murdoch (played by an excellent Dennis Ostermaier)  who meets and marries an artistic French war bride then uses the GI bill to become a psychiatrist. Jack, Marie, and their only child, Sam move to a well-to-do New Jersey suburb.  Jack is successful, drinks heavily, cheats on his wife and pushes his son to be tough and unfeeling, to play sports and be an athletic like DiMaggio. The father is homophobic and constantly warns Sam not to be weak and emotional, forbidding him to pursue music or the arts.

As their American dream unravels, as Jack continues to physically and mentally abuse Marie (portrayed brilliantly by Danielle Delgado). 30 years will pass with Sam’s stunning narration moving us along, including scenes of Marie’s impotence and destruction that will enmesh her son even as she tries to save him by encouraging artistic expression. I found myself deeply compelled: cringing and hurting with Marie and Sam, drawn in by the raw dialogue and action, hating Jack but hating Marie, too, for her docility in that era of the suburban housewife. Jeff Rubino as Sam, the son caught in the middle, is poignant and powerful as he struggles to come of age in that household.

The large canvas of history spanning the 1960’s through the 1990’s orients the audience; the events include the Kennedy assassinations, MLK, Kent State, Vietnam, and Nixon.  But the safe suburb that gives the Murdoch’s the “good life” insulates Sam from a worldview larger than the three family members and their legacy of the Irish relatives.

Of course, Sam is engaged in his contemporary world of sports, pot-smoking, discovering sex and Gloria, (a sweet Sarah Elmaleh) and hanging with his childhood friend Rooster (a funny and delightful Justin Cimino) who energizes the play whenever he appears. But even Rooster’s free spirit cannot fly beyond bored youthful thievery, drug use and delusion—he never leaves town either.  Sam’s earnest adolescent monologues accompany the trials of the three friends and the family.

As one would expect from the title, music plays a role and Sinatra’s greatest hits and mellifluous voice that accompany Jack’s generation, float in and out of the story.  We also hear Dylan, Morrison, a brief Springsteen and other groups who punctuate the passing of time and action.

Baseball and its heroes also figure importantly in the plot. The Yankees are the foundation upon which Sam and his father connect and bond.  Even the large phallic weapon Sam uses to save his mother in a classic oedipal vanquishing of the father, is an oversized baseball bat.  I trust the significance was not lost on the psychiatrist Jack.  Sam has finally become the brute his father wants him to be.

Costumes, lighting and sound assist the story as it moves through the decades and under the tight direction of Sydnie Grosberg Ronda reaches a cryptic conclusion. The set design does not change throughout the two acts reflecting the unchanging nature of the relationships.

At the end, raw and powerful, with hints that Sam’s adult life will both mirror, and diverge from his father’s, I was left wondering if suburbia, too, with its isolation from a larger life , its narrow monotony, is as much a villain in the tragedy of the Murdochs as its flawed patriarch.

Review from “Offbway”

Project Rushmore Theatre Company Presents WORLD OF SINATRAS




Project Rushmore Theatre Company is committed to exploring the American Spirit and takes their inspiration from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930’s with a mission to create jobs in the performing arts. The two plays performing in repertory at the ArcLight Theatre from July 15 to August 3 are about families and relationships.

Sean O’Connor’s WORLD OF SINATRAS is narrated by Sam (Jeff Rubino), the product of Jack (Dennis Ostermaier) and Marie (Danielle Delgado) Murdoch. Theirs is a love story, marinated in alcohol and abuse, slowly going bad. Through music (the kind of music that had words and meaning), Sam relates the tug of war under which he develops, with Jack insisting that feelings are for sissies while Marie attempts “to slip a song into his soul.” This is an ambitious piece of work that chronicles 30 years of the life of a conflicted child who takes on the attributes of his parents as he ages…the performances by the entire cast are exquisite and the musical background enhances the powerful story (amazing how a song can immediately break into your memory bank)…the reality is alcohol and abuse are destructive and dangerous no matter what.