After just three years, Gloria and Vince are separating. Their affections and love have been replaced by affectation and anger. The tumultuous 1960s on New York’s Lower East Side have added more obstacles for this interracial couple. “The Gingham Dog” by Lanford Wilson tells their story at Brooklyn College’s Department of Theater.
Lights! An old stereo and dozens of LP albums mark the boundaries downstage for Act I. A 1966 “Doors” poster on the rear kitchen wall reinforces the apartment’s upstage limits (Paihsin Shih, set design, Gretchen Van Lente, props). The clutter has disappeared in Act II to mirror the disintegration and emptiness of their marriage.
Director Jonathon Musser casts Monique Pappas as black activist Gloria, with Vasile Flutur playing Vince, her white husband. His ignorant sister is portrayed by Stephanie Bunch. Their long-haired “hippie” neighbor is played by Patrick McCormick.
Clearly, the characters could have been interpreted in several ways. Ultimately, Vince is a loudly frustrated and painfully angry husband who is challenged by an amazingly calm but verbally venomous wife.
McCormick is very funny as the well intentioned neighbor whose misguided efforts include sharing his pill “stash.” Stephanie Bunch has the unenviable position of angrily presenting a bigoted view of racial inequality.
Director Musser shares, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of MLK’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. When I finished [reading] “The Gingham Dog,” I was stunned to find a play with such biting intensity and poignant humanity…I knew this story needed to be told…today, we have the perfect opportunity to bring this conversation back to light.”
At Friday’s performance, the audience consisted of two groups. There were those who lived through the ’60s and may have actively participated in its multiple energies.
Then there were those with only a historical perspective. Whatever your frame of reference, “The Gingham Dog” triggers two important questions: Are Gloria and Vince doomed because their personalities were never compatible? Or is it a tragic symptom of society’s prejudices and the enormous upheavals of the 1960s?
Bravo to the Department of Theater at Brooklyn College for daring to reopen old wounds in order to bring continued healing.
The next production, “A Murder of Crows,” opens in May. Call the main number at 718-951-5666 or surf to http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.