It’s not every day that you get a marriage proposal, especially not after the 3rd date, but that’s exactly what’s happening to Vincent (John Fico) as the lights come up on Monica Bauer’s beautifully written one-man show, Made For Each Other (directed by John FitzGibbon). Vincent, a 50ish man flips his cell phone shut and proceeds to give the audience hilarious snapshots of his life in zinging one liners, self deprecating anecdotes and breezy patter. Between the laughs we can tell that Vincent is a man with a heart who’s hoping against hope that this isn’t all as crazy as it sounds.
From there we meet the other people who twine into Vincent’s life either directly or indirectly – all played by John Fico. There’s Jerry, 40, the man who was on the other end of the phone who was eager to propose. Jerry is the sweet, doting nurse who met Vincent in the nursing home where Vincent’s mother now resides, a victim of Alzheimer’s disease. As Jerry rhapsodized to his therapist over this new man in his life we see Vincent through his eyes, and it’s a lovely picture – because we see Jerry as well. Suddenly, the idea of proposing after the third date doesn’t seem so outlandish after all.
Grandpa Damiano – Jerry’s grandfather – also makes an appearance. Although this man is technically dead we’re presented with his spirit, the one that watches over his grandson Jerry and spurs him forward, guiding him with whispers of what he should do. The elder Damiano is a complex man . . . mired in the old-world ways we get a hazy snippet of how he wasn’t always welcomed in his family until much later in life when his constant stream of cigarettes finally caught up with him and his chronic emphysema forced him to move into his daughter’s home . . . and his grandson Jerry’s room. It was in that room that an old Italian man with strict ideas about the world soften his heart to a boy who – anyone could see – was “a little different”. To Grandpa Damiano, all that mattered was that this kid loved him, accepted him, and made his final years happy.
The last character we’re introduced to is Vincent’s mother who is, more and more, becoming a prisoner of her mind as her Alzheimer’s progresses. She has already (according to Jerry) gone over to what he and the other nurses refer to as the “OP” . . . the “Other Place” (although they don’t say this in front of the relatives of the patients). The woman we meet, however, is vibrant, lively, and enthusiastic about life, if a little eccentric. It’s only in-between the moments that she becomes scattered, losing her train of thought, word-associating in order to get her point across, and flitting around the stage as if she were in the French Riviera. To see her go from marvelous to muddled in the span of five minutes is perturbing and terribly, terribly sad. It is here where Bauer’s script is at it’s most powerful and where her talent for play-writing, not just witty repartee really comes through – to be able to make an audience hold their sides from laughter one moment and then struggle to hold back tears the next is no small feat.
Made for Each Other starts off as one story and slowly becomes another. It also starts off solidly in the genre of comedy . . . almost a stand up act . . . and brings the lights down on a heartfelt drama. Bauer has written four characters who are not just solid, but appealing – every time the light dims on one of them you’re sorry to see them go . . . but then you are delighted to see the next character unfolding before you.
Under John FitzGibbon’s direction, Fico plays this story as if he were four distinct people, and at no point do you ever wonder who you’re looking at. He has a gift of using changes in his body language remarkably well – not just relying on vocal calisthenics or props to cue the audience. Fico’s use of stance, tics, gestures and even habits give each character a uniqueness and to watch Fico transform from one to the other is a joy.
Made For Each Other is a gift all around – to an actor, and to an audience. Get to the final performance of this show this weekend if you can. I guarantee that you’ll leave the theatre feeling like this show was Made For You.
~~~MADE FOR EACH OTHER Benefiting Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Written by Monica Bauer Directed by John FitzGibbon Starring John Fico* Running time: 75 minutes, no intermission Venue: The Robert Moss Theater, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd floor Performance dates: Sun 6/13 @ 11:30am Wed 6/16 @ 6:45pm Fri 6/18 @ 9pm Sun 6/20 @ 4:45pm Sat 6/26 @ 11:15am Purchase tickets here.