LAST NIGHT AT THE CARMINE

Last Night at the Carmine

Written and directed by Caroline Kelly Franklin

Though it goes astray at times, Caroline Kelly Franklin’s mosaic of linked vignettes has its heart in the right place, and many of its off-beat exchanges are affecting and funny.

The intertwining stories concern the habitués, staff and proprietors of a decades-old bar that is forced by gentrification to finally close as its doors. Owners Thompson (Dennis Dmitry) and Frank (Sam Charny), decide not to tell their employees about their decision to close the Carmine, but the denizens of the pub all seem to sense a change in the atmosphere. Relationship dynamics shift as truths are revealed and old coping mechanisms collapse. The duets include a teacher and student (Greg Bell and Caroline Kelly Franklin), a bartender and patron (Clint Tate and Samantha Shane), two best buds (Stephen Simeon and Cory Haynes), and the women who grudgingly love them (Rocky Vega and Whitney St.Ours). In the freshest and most moving encounter, a solitary young man (Derek Long) recalls miraculously surviving a serious childhood disease only to discover that life doesn’t seem worth living. His chance meeting with a quirky neighborhood kid (Hannah Seusy) changes both their perspectives.

There are a few beats that feel overly expository. Thompson and Frank seem to relive past history for the audience’s benefit, rather than sharing the shorthand typical of people who have known each other intimately for decades. Similarly, the scene between the two male friends is sensitively written, but directed with a puzzling amount of screaming and twitching that doesn’t support the material. For the most part, though the ensemble is spot on and the situations are handled with empathy and wit. Franklin has an ear for the miscommunications that hobble intimacy and the rhythms of a changing urban landscape. It will be interesting to see how her talent develops.

LAST NIGHT AT THE CARMINE continues through August 28, 2015 at the Robert Moss Theater. 440 Lafayette Street, New York, New York. Tickets: Fringenyc.org

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