Girders

Evan Greene presents a play in two acts, written and directed by Joshua Ravetch; sets, Evan Greene; lighting, John Grant; costumes, Irene Dovan; sound design, Leonora Schildkraut & Peter Stenshoe; original music, David Ravetch. Opened, reviewed Jan. 6, 1996; runs until Feb. 25. Running time: 1hour, 50 min. TX:Cast: George Murdock (Al), Chad Restum (Sam), Mark Slama (Joe), Thomas D. Bruner (Ollie), Gregory Erff (Roy), Gordon Greene (Jack), David Mayhan (Ed), Paul Moris (Irv), Kerstin Gilg (Frank), Nancy Lantis (Stella). Writer/director Joshua Ravetch has fashioned a fascinating blue-collar variation of "A Chorus Line," played out on a narrow steel girder high above the streets of New York. Inspired by a famous 1932 photo of a group of hard-hat, high-rise construction workers, "Girders" offers an insightful, often hilarious view into the lives of men who feel less threatened by the dangers of their profession than they do by the societal and economic pressures that determine their ability to earn a living. Covering a two-month period in the construction of a New York skyscraper, each scene finds the men a few floors higher, raucously and irreverently finding ways to bolster their spirits while dealing with the realities of pay cuts, poor job evaluations, personal stress and the knowledge there is no guarantee there will be another job for them when this one is finished.

Evan Greene presents a play in two acts, written and directed by Joshua Ravetch; sets, Evan Greene; lighting, John Grant; costumes, Irene Dovan; sound design, Leonora Schildkraut & Peter Stenshoe; original music, David Ravetch. Opened, reviewed Jan. 6, 1996; runs until Feb. 25. Running time: 1hour, 50 min. TX:Cast: George Murdock (Al), Chad Restum (Sam), Mark Slama (Joe), Thomas D. Bruner (Ollie), Gregory Erff (Roy), Gordon Greene (Jack), David Mayhan (Ed), Paul Moris (Irv), Kerstin Gilg (Frank), Nancy Lantis (Stella). Writer/director Joshua Ravetch has fashioned a fascinating blue-collar variation of “A Chorus Line,” played out on a narrow steel girder high above the streets of New York. Inspired by a famous 1932 photo of a group of hard-hat, high-rise construction workers, “Girders” offers an insightful, often hilarious view into the lives of men who feel less threatened by the dangers of their profession than they do by the societal and economic pressures that determine their ability to earn a living. Covering a two-month period in the construction of a New York skyscraper, each scene finds the men a few floors higher, raucously and irreverently finding ways to bolster their spirits while dealing with the realities of pay cuts, poor job evaluations, personal stress and the knowledge there is no guarantee there will be another job for them when this one is finished.

The play’s anchor is the “old man” of the crew, Al, performed excellently by vet character actor George Murdock. As Al, he offers a heart-rending study of dignity and vulnerability as he softly requests that his supervisor (Chad Restum) help him from being denied his pension after 40-plus years on the job.

Restum deserves high marks for his effective portrayal of Sam, who becomes increasingly more hard-edged once he is promoted to management. His transformation becomes complete when he fires the militant Roy, performed with razorlike intensity by Gregory Erff.

Also lending solid support are: Mark Slama as Sam’s lovesick brother, Joe; Nancy Lantis, who offers a sensitive portrayal of Joe’s pregnant, working-class wife; Gordon Greene’s earthy portrayal of the illiterate but life-loving Jack; and Thomas D. Bruner as Ollie, who remains “one of the guys” even after he is promoted.

Evan Greene’s simple set creates a realistic environment. John Grant’s lights and the sound design of Leonora Schildkraut/Peter Stenshoe do much to create the proper sense of isolation and distance from the street-level world.

Special mention must go to Irene Dovan’s accurate costumes.

Girders

(Coast Playhouse, West Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 20 top)

Production: Though missing a cast member (due to illness) on opening night, the eight-man ensemble maneuvered as adroitly through Ravetch's text as they did around the narrow, erector set-like girders that dominate the lives of these workers.

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