Theater review: Alliance back on the road with ‘Crossing Delancey’

  • Bert Osborne
  • For the AJC
11:15 a.m. Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 Living
Sochi Fried and Andrew Benator (with Mary Lynn Owen in foreground) appear in the Alliance Theatre’s romantic comedy “Crossing Delancey.” CONTRIBUTED BY GREG MOONEY

In case you hadn’t already heard, the Alliance Theatre is taking its show(s) on the road this season, staging each of its 2017-18 productions at various different venues in and around Atlanta. (The company is renovating its own space at the Woodruff Arts Center, which is scheduled to reopen next fall, just in time to mark the group’s 50th-anniversary season.)

One of the biggest pleasures about the Alliance’s recent “Shakespeare in Love” was how the show enabled a reunion and homecoming of sorts for former Georgia Shakespeare artistic director Richard Garner and several long-standing members of his acting ensemble — back on the boards of the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University, where they had performed for many years (until the troupe folded in 2014).

In a similar fashion, seeing the Alliance’s current show, “Crossing Delancey,” at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta feels like an ideal fit. And, if you’ve been around long enough, being back there might also bring to mind fond memories of its dearly departed resident company, Jewish Theatre of the South (sadly disbanded in 2008).

Call that sentimental or nostalgic, but Susan Sandler’s sweet and slight 1985 play is like that, too. Popularized by a 1988 movie version with Amy Irving, it’s a contemporary romantic comedy about a young Jewish woman in Manhattan, Isabelle (or Izzy), who’s torn between her Lower East Side heritage and her Upper West Side aspirations.

For the AJC
The Alliance Theatre’s “Crossing Delancey” co-stars Andrew Benator and Mary Lynn Owen. CONTRIBUTED BY GREG MOONEY

In one corner: her feisty old grandmother, Ida (or Bubbie); a meddling “marriage broker” named Hannah; and a perfectly eligible bachelor in the kindhearted Sam, the neighborhood pickle vendor. In the other corner: a “comfortable” job at a trendy bookstore; and an objectionable object of desire in Tyler, a self-absorbed novelist who can barely remember her name.

Sandler’s plot proceeds predictably, but Toronto-based director Leora Morris’ swift and breezy pace helps. So do most of the actors. As Izzy, Sochi Fried (also based in Toronto) is quite winning in a number of charming asides to the audience (nicely accentuated by Joseph A. Futral’s lighting). At other times, though, her performance is overshadowed by the supporting characters.

The formidable Andrew Benator (True Colors’ “Race”) brings an uncommon warmth and sensitivity to the wise and trustworthy Sam. His awkward courtship with Izzy rings true, and when he opens up to her about the “hard business of getting acquainted,” Benator makes you feel his yearning.

Even in the thankless role of Tyler, how great is it to see Daniel Thomas May on stage again? Once among our best and most gainfully employed theater actors, he has lately focused his attention on film and TV (including a recurring role on “The Walking Dead”). For her part, Joanna Daniels hams it up overmuch as the manic matchmaker.

Some 25 years ago, Atlanta veteran Mary Lynn Owen played Izzy at Theatrical Outfit. Now, amazingly, the actress delivers a scene-stealing turn as the ebullient Bubbie. She’s no stranger to convincingly playing well beyond her own years (the Outfit’s “Dividing the Estate,”Aurora’s “4000 Miles”). In her brightest moment here, simply watching Owen unwrap a package is “pure gold,” indeed — even if Bubbie does say so herself.

Through Nov. 25. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. $10-$80. Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. 404-733-5000, www.alliancetheatre.org.

Bottom line: Sweet, if slight.

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