NEW YORK 11-22-13
On this date, just exactly 50 years ago, I was a student at The University of Texas in Austin and preparing to join several friends that very afternoon for a little trip out to Austin Airport where we were to gather with others planning to welcome President John Fitzgerald Kennedy to the state capitol. Fate had other plans for a much-loved President who would not be making his planned flight from Dallas to Austin.
The sad and eventful days that followed that earth-shaking assassination would soon give birth to countless conspiracy theories that persist to this day. For those attending the premiere of WITNESSED BY THE WORLD, currently playing at the 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan, yet another conspiracy theory can now be added to that number. Written by Ronnie Cohen & Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter, this new play may offer a theory just as inconclusive as those that went before it, but don’t think that prevents this plot from bringing plenty of thought-provoking suspense to the stage.
We meet Ira Basil (Max Gordon Moore), a somewhat successful screenwriter known for his light comedies, but having less success in transitioning to the realm of serious drama. The slightly built Ira seems a bit of a nebbish as he shuffles about in madras Bermuda shorts with disheveled hair and thick nerdy eyeglasses while trying to develop his next film concept. He so reminds one of a young Woody Allen that if I were a playwright I would quickly try to come up with a script celebrating the actor/filmmaker and featuring Mr. Moore as my star.
Ira soon begins collaboration with seasoned investigative reporter, Joan Ross (Charlotte Maier). Joan has reportedly been a bit too effective in Chicago Sun Times investigations that unnerved her editors. Now she encourages Ira to try developing a plot designed around a real life character. They settle on the notorious Jack Ruby who gained his infamy by shooting (on live television) Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Joan begins researching Ruby’s past and gets the unique opportunity to interview Jack’s surviving sister, the elderly Eileen (Lois Markle in a standout performance that is absolutely wonderful). This is where things really get interesting because Eileen is able to share some secrets that may turn history on its head.
Paralleling these events, Joan has a friend and confident in liquor storeowner, Aaron Spencer (Bob Ari). A loan shark mobster named Joe Capano (Joe Tapper) is haunting Aaron.
Capano is demanding money and involving Aaron in some criminal transactions. To add to the fun, rumor has it that Joe’s “Uncle Tony” (a mob kingpin, not a real uncle) actually knew Jack Ruby. When Joan gets wind of that connection she insists on meeting Tony. There is an atmosphere of mystery as the one-act play (90 minutes with no Intermission) weaves its conspiratorial spell. To say more would give away the surprise ending.
WITNESSED BY THE WORLD continues its limited engagement through December 15th at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th St. in Manhattan. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:15 PM; Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM & 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM. Tickets are $49 ($33.50 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or go to http://www.59e59.org.