Reviewed by Karl Levett
Presented by the T. Schreiber Studio at the Gloria Maddox Theatre, T. Schreiber Studio, 151 W. 26 St., NYC, Jan. 24-Feb. 18.
Near the end of this unwieldy drama by Israel Horovitz, here being given its New York premiere, one of the younger characters says: "In the 21st century, there are no heroes!" Horovitz, who wrote those words, would hardly agree. The fishermen of Gloucester, Mass. are, for him, true heroes—men "who live bravely." "Barking Sharks" is only one of Horovitz's 12-play cycle about his beloved hometown. The title of the play comes from the name of a local 1970s rock band. The lives of the three band members, Eddie, Sara, and Ted, intertwine and form the stuff of the play. But the play's center is the grown-up Eddie Coilino (Bob Rogerson), who, after being successful for 25 years in marketing in New York, wants to return to Gloucester to seek a more authentic life. Uprooting his family, he moves back to Gloucester to be a fisherman, to find that, in his absence, the authenticity he seeks has ceased to exist.
Just like the fishermen he is writing about, Israel Horovitz is one of a dying breed. His brand of old-fashioned naturalism would no longer seem to be in vogue, but the virtues of naturalism are several: the telling of a story, attention to character, accumulation of detail. While some of these virtues are evident here, Horovitz piles too much on the plate. The focus on Eddie as a flawed hero is often lost in the distractions of untidy domestic drama. Such predictable literalness makes for an attenuated fisherman's tale of variable interest, and one definitely not for the limited attention span set.
Terry Schreiber directs all this with a sympathetic ear to the text. Rogerson carries the play in a performance that makes Eddie at all times reasonable—and better yet, believable. Jerry Rago's Ted adds to the play's authenticity, while the Sara of Mary Beth Kowalski-Twisdale provides emotional weight. Attractive support comes from Quinn Lemley, Alexandra Westmore, and a vibrant J.M. McDonough.