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A play by Sean O’Connor
At the Mazur Theater, 555 E. 90th St.
Reviewed by Claude Solnik
Showbiz Magazine

When good Americans die, Oscar Wilde said, they go to Paris. For those less patient, you might add, they can try to reach paradise earlier by trying a trip to Las Vegas. Sean O’Connor’s There is an Angel in Las Vegas is about one such soul. The play is about a tug of war for a son and about a reunion between father and son in the wilds of Vegas (you lose the “Las” pretty quickly.) It is a marvelously eloquent, deeply emotional and very funny evening. A slew of monolgues fill out the show but they never slow down the plot. This play is not a rhinestone, by any means. It’s a diamond, full and polished up, that O’Connor and Playwrights Preview Productions are now offering the audience.

Setting is key here: we’re in Vegas, the Temple of the Temporary. It’s a land of rent-a-cars and bars, a hotel heaven. This place is a myth full of would-be…and now and then real…millionaires. Enter into this land of cactus and casinos one Dean (Michael Santoro), a loser with a tongue as eloquent as a Kerouac typewriter on a good day. The plot starts rolling when his son, Chip, (Scott J. Weir) is dropped off by his ex-wife, Glenda (Tara Dolan). She wants father and son to get to know one another over a few days, a reunion years after Dean has left the family and fled to Vegas. Father and son never quite break through the armor that has grown over the years. But by the time the boy leaves, something strange, beautiful and real has grown between them. And at the end, when Dean stares off into the desert, there’s a sense that now, in addition to his dreams, he’s aware that human beings are also out there. And he’s at least begun to draw closer to some of them.

As Dean, Michael Santoro is more than just a loveable loser. O’Connor has majestically created an archetypal American. This is the bard of Vegas, someone who hears “the silence of possibility that swells in your head just as you’re about to let go a’ the dice.” Santoro pulls off the monologues beautifully. And Sean O’Connor’s words burst like fireworks over the Las Vegas landscape.

F.R. Smith in the role of Eddie (aka Mr. Ed), as Sancho Panza to Santoro’s Don Quixote, is an hilarious blend of cheap briefcases and Hawaiian shirts. His lines have a wonderful redundancy to them with phrases such as “presently now” and “a kind of a sort of” a thing. Jami Martin does a good job as Betty, one of the two women Dean brings home. And her monologue about a man who never met Joe Namath, and what a tragedy he never had the chance to, actually comes out as a very touching, funny and magnificently true moment. Amy Stiller’s Wilma is the embodiment of energy. Scott J. Weir, as the metaphorically named son, Chip, is appropriately awkward and innocent and more and more at home in the Vegas wasteland.

Tara Dolan’s Glenda is fine. And Paul Doherty as her current mate Dale does a fine job bringing life to a character as toothless as the Lascate alligator on his shirt. But he’s more of a witness to this wild, mythic story than part of it. This is a play that succeeds on many levels. Emotional, dramatic, comedic, poetic. And Paul Dervis’ directions makes it a pleasure to see as well as hear.

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