Subscribe now to and start applying to auditions!

Off-Off-Broadway Review

Charles Winn Speaks

Charles Winn Speaks
Photo Source: Living Image Arts
Charles Winn was far and away the best thing about "Americanize!," four 2009 one-acts about the immigrant experience. In the engaging form of actor Christopher Kipiniak, C.S. Hanson's creation was a 30-something Russian on Wall Street, a hedge fund manager with a knack for technology and lucky guesses: He instinctively bet against mortgage-backed securities. Charles was taping a please-don't-leave video to his girlfriend, who had just written him a Dear John letter, and in Kipiniak's capable hands he was surly, bitter, funny, charming, and awkward. Kipiniak and Hanson created a small gem, and we wanted to know Charles Winn better.

Now we can, for actor and author have expanded the one-act into an evening of four scenes, still titled "Charles Winn Speaks" but stretching from 2005 to the present, chronicling our hero's life and messy loves. More, however, turns out to be somewhat less. Kipiniak is still excellent. His Russian accent is flawless, he delineates quicksilver mood changes effortlessly, his body language is eloquently clumsy (Charles likes his vodka), and we're never bored. But the extra running time doesn't add up to a more comprehensive picture of Charles.

We hear a little about Charles' past. We see him in work mode: There's talk of Wall Street disaster, but Charles doesn't seem much affected. Mostly, we see him as he relates—or doesn't—to women. The first scene is an extension of the original one-act. In the second, he's leaving the woman he married on the rebound. In the third, he's hooked up in Stockholm with Phoebe (Lindsey Gates), a friend of his now ex-wife, putting the moves on her as she pines for the podiatrist who dumped her. (Phoebe begins as a caricature, girly and giggly, but Gates fleshes her out nicely.) And at this point occurs a coincidence so wild that I'm embarrassed to think about it, resolving everyone's romantic travails and leading to an epilogue that's a warm bath of slurpy sentimentality about fatherhood.

So for all the new details about Charles' life, we don't know him a lot better. Hanson could have used the extra verbiage to make a larger statement about how immigrants sometimes have insights that the native-born lack, or how greed wrecked the economy, or how parenthood can bring focus to a disorderly life. In "Charles Winn Speaks," we do see Charles mature from a self-centered Wall Street dandy into a responsible, loving husband and father. But it's not a natural progression; it's just a bunch of tangentially related scenes.
Presented by Living Image Arts Theater Company at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce St., NYC. Sept. 17–Oct. 1. Wed.–Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (212) 239-7200, (800) 432-7250, or

What did you think of this story?
Leave a Facebook Comment: