MANGLED BEAMS

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Written by Dawn Jamieson
Directed by Christen Omantra Callahan

Though it’s noticeably under-rehearsed,  there is much to like in Amerinda’s potent examination of New York’s Native American community and its crucial role the building and rebuilding of the city.

It is September of 2001 Brad Martin (Denny Desmarais), is an experienced construction worker, but Sal (Mike Pirozzi), who runs the local hiring hall, won’t put him on a  shift. It doesn’t help that Brad is not in the union and has been known to show up to work soused. But the real problem, of course, is racism. It’s a strange prejudice, considering that Native American workers, many of them “sky walkers” known for their immunity to fear of heights, were valued members of the crews that built the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers and many other iconic New York structures. Nevertheless, according to Sal, the new real estate moguls don’t seem to want them around anymore.Brad’s ex-con little brother Dave (Dylan Carusona) gets around this problem by greasing Sal’s palm. He and his partner-in-crime Joe Cross (Jess Monroe), supplement their meager construction incomes by smuggling cigarettes, Canadian booze, and other black-market items into the city. Ambitious college graduate Greg Linden (Greg Seage), hopes to find a political solution to the discrimination. He attracts media attention and prepares to run for a seat on the Tribal Council back home on the reservation. Greg claims to be fighting for his people, but his girlfriend Becky (Maeve Crispi) has her doubts. Indeed, as he searches for campaign money Greg’s casino-operator father Joe (John Scott-Richardson) seems a little too eager to strike a mutually beneficial deal.

While the battle for equality continues, internecine tensions simmer. Dave and Brad have an uneasy history, while Becky, who once threw Dave aside, begins to give him a second look. Brad returns to AA, hoping it’s not too late to reconcile with his estranged wife Fern (Erin Kelley), and their kids. Interwoven with these conflicts is an internal balancing act, as the characters struggle to choose between city and reservation, tradition and modernity. When the Twin Towers collapse, some of the old social barriers fall with them. Even Sal can no longer afford to discriminate, as the rescue effort will require all hands. High above the wreckage, the beam walkers come face to face with their true natures. Some emerge as heroes, others reveal weakness of character.  All are changed by the crisis, and prompted to find an authentic way of moving forward into an uncertain future.

Scrupulously fair to all its characters, Jamieson’s script skillfully weaves its multiple narratives and themes of cultural and personal dilemmas  into a cohesive statement. There is even a healthy dose of humor to counterbalance the seriousness of the subject matter. As with any large cast play, though, keeping a consistent pace and tone proves challenging. Led by Director Christen Omantra Callahan, a committed, multi-generational ensemble does its best to serve the story, and much of the show is effective. But along with the bright spots there are cues that need to be tightened, entrances and exits that seem too tentative. The heart of MANGLED BEAMS shines through regardless, but the show feels like it’s under construction.

MANGLED BEAMS continues through April 29, 2018 at  the A.R.T./New York Theatres
502 West 53rd Street, New York, NY . Tickets: mangledbeams.brownpapertickets.com.

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