One More Time with Malice, Press

Review: “One More Time with Malice”
at the Robert Moss Theatre
March 17, 2018
-Anthony J. Piccione
On Stage Blog

Depression and mental health. HIV and AIDS, and the impact it particularly has had on gay couples. Bigotry toward the LGBTQ community. The economic struggles of those who can’t keep up with the cost of rent and health insurance. These are all themes which have been tackled before in theatre, and I’ve seen many plays that do a fine job at doing so. Yet all of them play a part in the story of Rob Cardazone’s new play One More Time with Malice, which recently premiered at the Robert Moss Theater.

The play is set in the mid-to-late 90s, not too far after the AIDS epidemic hit its 1980s peak. It follows the story of a family, as the kids and husband struggle with the severe depression and recent suicide attempt of the mother/wife Beatrice. Meanwhile, as the entire family also must grapple with ongoing financial struggles, Beatrice’s son Freddie also struggles with HIV, as well as the emotions that come with eventually falling into a romantic relationship with Donnie, the nurse looking after his mother at the hospital. The result is an emotional roller coaster that ultimately builds toward a poignant and powerful climax…one which highlights an issue all too common still in the families of those of the LGBTQ community.
Kiley Rothweiler and Stephen Joshua Thompson
Produced by Two Cups and a String Theatre and directed by Eric Nightengale, the play is staged beautifully, and presented alongside a very well-designed set, which captures the shiny appearance and cold atmosphere that is common in most hospitals. The colorful lighting effects toward the second half of the play also were a great way of setting both the tone and location of each moment. The usage of makeup at certain moments of the play, particularly one moment toward the beginning, were also very well done and perfect down to detail.

In the role of Freddie, Stephen Joshua Thompson shows a great deal of both psychological and emotional depth in his performance that shows just how hectic the mind of his character really is. Meanwhile, Marc Sinoway evolves as someone who comes off as being somewhat cold to vividly emotional as Donnie, over the course of the play. Tom Ciorciari, Amanda Tudor and Kiley Rothweiler all turn in decent performances, as well, as Freddie’s father Joseph and sisters Vinnie and Josephine, respectively.

The best performance of the night, though, was that of Zoey O’Toole, who turned in an exceptionally emotional performance as Beatrice. It’s not easy to portray someone who is it terribly ill condition, both physically and mentally. Often, I find that certain actors can prove to be either too soft in their performances, or they end up overacting while trying to hit the mark. Ms. O’Toole, though, did a particularly outstanding job at capturing the depth of this character.

All too often, I see plays that try and fit too much into one play, in terms of including a ton of different plotlines involving different characters, as well as perhaps too many varying themes or issues. Yet this play succeeds, in a way that I can’t say about some other plays I’ve seen, in managing to tie it all together, and make it feel like it’s all relevant to the broader story of this family. I regret not seeing it sooner in its run, as by the time you all see this review, this current run will probably have ended. However, with any luck, perhaps this won’t be the last we’ll be hearing of this play.

“One More Time with Malice” – presented by Two Cups and a String Theatre – ran at the Robert Moss Theatre from March 8th–17th, 2018.



 

Bob Criso Talks with the Playwright about
ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE
March 13, 2018

Eugene O’Neil said that families are like addictions, with everyone seeking some kind of love and approval, over and over again. Rob Cardazone’s latest work, “One More Time with Malice,” is a shining example of his point.

This well-crafted and compelling drama is a hard-nosed look at what’s at stake when circumstances force a family to face their denial, their pain and their mortality.

In the play, Beatrice Reggio (Zoey O'Toole) has overdosed and her husband and three adult children have come to her bedside at the hospital. They watch as she vomits the last of the black charcoal she was given in the ER to empty her stomach. For the remainder of the play, we follow this fractured New Jersey family from 1995 to 1999 as long-simmering tensions rise to the surface, secrets get revealed, delusions get pierced and bridges are built in an attempt to connect. Watching it feels like eavesdropping.

“I’ve borrowed some of the material from my own family,” Mr. Cardazone says but points out that he’s also drawn from other sources, as well as his own imagination — “things that I’ve been thinking about for a while.” While he has previously written a number of plays, he says “this is the closest I’ve come to using my own experience as a source.” A number of his relatives have seen the play and have responded positively.
Stephen Joshua Thompson and Zoey O'Toole
In the two-hour play with an intermission, certain truths slowly surface. Beatrice’s depression seems related to years of dealing with Joseph (Tom Ciorciari), her rigid and controlling husband. At the hospital, Joseph forces each of his children to “make her promise not to do it again.” Josephine (Kiley Rothweiler), the married eldest daughter, initially presents as the stable achiever but her defenses crack under stress and she talks about her unhappy marriage. Vinnie (Amanda Tudor), the middle child, has been bouncing around with freelance jobs and a husband who drinks too much. And then there’s Freddie (Stephen Joshua Thompson), the youngest and the focus of the play. He’s gay, cynical and was ready to tell his family about his AIDS diagnosis until this mother overdosed. Donny (Marc Sinoway), the male nurse caring for Beatrice, gives an outsider’s perspective to the situation, then eventually hooks up with Freddie and informs him about the new medications available for AIDS.

Despite the grim material, there’s plenty of laughs to counter the often tense and somber mood. There’s also cause for hope — Freddie no longer feels doomed, but then has to build a new life.

“This play is not about any one particular theme that gets examined, then gets wrapped up neatly at the end,” Mr. Cardazone says. “It’s more about how unwieldy and complex life can be.” He emphasizes that “Things often get messy with many things happening at the same time.”

Thin and fit with neatly-combed, curly brown hair, Mr. Cardazone’s sharp, angular features and large frame glasses conveyed a focused intensity when we spoke recently in a Brooklyn cafe. Born and raised in New Jersey, he currently lives in Williamsburg. He obtained a BFA in acting from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and a MFA in playwriting from CUNY Hunter where he studied with Tina Howe and Mark Bly. He has been acting, directing and writing for thirty years. Theatergoers might be familiar with his “House On the Hudson” and “Terribly and In Private,” actually the other two parts of a trilogy about Freddie.

While he may not be a household name, Mr. Cardazone has a long and somewhat distinguished list of credits and commendations for a number of his previous works. Now in his early fifties, he still awaits the major career breakthrough that has eluded him so far. “One More Time With Malice” may be a turning point.

Once More With Malice was presented at the Robert Moss Theater
March 7-18, 2018.



 

New York Theatre Review
an indie media outlet for indie theater.
Charles Gershman Interviews Rob Cardazone On His New Play,
ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE
March 11, 2018

 Marc Sinoway and Stephen Joshua Thompson
In Rob Cardazone’s new play, ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE, Freddie plans to share a big secret with his family, but after his mother’s suicide attempt lands her in the hospital, he has the perfect excuse not to. And Hot Nurse Donny is the perfect escape.

Rob Cardazone is a recent graduate of the MFA playwriting program at Hunter College. His other plays include House on the Hudson (finalist, Trustus Theatre Competition, and semifinalist, Stanley Drama Award), Terribly and In Private (semifinalist, O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), The Birth and Death of Stars (1st Prize, Kernolde New Play Competition), A Dark Wood (Nantucket Short Play Festival and Samuel French OOB Festival), The Shrew Sketch (FringeNYC), and What Sprang Off a Gypsy Rooster (Access Theater).

ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE is presented by Two Cups and a String Theatre and Directed by Eric Nightengale.

Tell me about One More Time With Malice.

Rob Cardazone: It’s set in a New Jersey hospital in the mid-90s. The main character, Freddie, is an anxious, sharp-witted, gay New Yorker, who had planned to tell his family about his HIV status. After his mother tries to commit suicide, he has the perfect excuse not to. The family is forced into a reunion. Things get tense, quickly. The siblings try to navigate old wounds, while their father bullies them into making their mom promise "never to do it again." Seeing his mother in the hospital bed with tubes and everything, Freddie fears his own death. At one point he and his mother share drug-induced hallucinations. And then there’s a hot male nurse, who ends up being the perfect escape for him. Nurse Donny helps Freddie see that with new breakthrough medication, he may not die. So now, he’s faced with the challenge of figuring out how to live. It’s a complex drama about facing fears, mortality, sexuality, spiritually, trying to connect with family, and is hopefully funny along the way.

What do the ‘90s mean to you?

Rob Cardazone: It was my heyday, as they say. I was a working actor, but not really making much money. I had no fear, but of course that was covering the fact that I was filled with fear. Then the shit hit the fan. I lost my father and two of my closest friends, all a couple months apart. Cancer, AIDS, cancer, respectively. It’s about this time that I started writing plays. Plays today can be very neat, focusing on one story, but life as I knew it was really messy, with a lot going on all at once—with barely ever a break. I actually don’t know how I survived the 90s, but I’m still here to tell about it.

Tell me about this collaboration. Who are you working with and what’s it like?

Rob Cardazone: Eric Nightengale is my director. I found him through one of my mentors, Arlene Hutton. He had directed original productions of a bunch of her plays. We balance each other pretty well, and the actors love him. He gives them a lot of room to play and explore. I always want to pull them back. This family that I’ve written is very bottled up. They’re Jersey Italian/Mutts, but they might as well be wasps of the classic family play. My leading man, Stephen Joshua Thompson, was a very lucky find – from the auditions! He understands the character—the tragedy of the 90s and losing friends and colleagues from the AIDS epidemic. He just has an amazing depth of emotion. He’s also played a number of leading roles in musicals, so he has the stamina, the discipline and the performative value necessary for the role. The rest of the cast—Marc Sinoway, Amanda Tudor, Kiley Rothweiler, Zoey O’Toole, and Tom Ciorciari—are exceptional each in their own way. They take what they get from Eric and then—sometimes right away—from me, in stride. They’re all able to integrate all the ideas without fuss.

Who are some of your heroes—theatrical or otherwise—and why?

Rob Cardazone: Tony Kushner, but that seems pretty obvious. Amazing that they’re doing revivals of Angels now. It’s time. When this “president” got… into office, well, I kept waking up every morning hoping it was a nightmare, or a Saturday Night Live sketch, but… So, this personal family-play of mine started to take on some bigger meanings: How we Americans don’t understand each other. And now, maybe, we’re starting to try to understand each other? My heroes are everyone from the people in my life, who try to talk to “the other side of the aisle” to people like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Meryl Streep. I have to admit, I got a chill when Oprah gave her speech at the Golden Globes. And, I light up when I see Adam Rippon, both skate, and sass. Playwrights? Rajiv Joseph. I saw Describe the Night twice, a play about writing and truth. Two things we need to keep going today. I love a complex structure; a play packed with a lot of stuff. I’m also really inspired by the straightforward, structural exactness of Lucas Hnath. And just at the point in my life when my belief in magic may have died away, my teacher Tina Howe filled me back up with childlike wonder. After all the challenges of grad school, she is still at the top of the hero list.

Who are you as a playwright? What kinds of stories do you like to tell?

Rob Cardazone: My teacher from way back in undergrad, Walter Dallas, introduced me to a quote. I have no idea who said it first, but he said, “Comedy is a moan turned gay.” Double entendre aside, we had a mutual appreciation of the idea. I think I’ve always written from a visceral place: bottled up anxiety that explodes into a sassy diatribe, fear that pushes out wings and takes flight, a deep sadness that has overstayed and gives painful birth to a yearning to connect. For a long time, I stayed away from the gay-themed play, worried that it would get me nowhere. There weren’t too many inspiring models in my early days. Now I’ve committed myself to telling the stories of gay people- but not the archetypes we’re used to. I’m not interested in the sweater queen who tries to blend and fit in. For me, the gay person is always a misfit but strives to transcend the role of victim. The gay hero’s journey is not to assimilate, but to say, and to believe it when he says, “You should be more like me! You don’t know what you’re missing!”

I know a lot of your plays. How does this play fit in with the others?

Rob Cardazone: One More Time with Malice inadvertently became part of a trio of plays. The first of the three, House on the Hudson, tells the story of Freddie fleeing the New Jersey hospital where his mom was taken after her suicide attempt. He travels up to Hudson New York to visit his friend, Clay. Freddie is too young and naive to understand that his friend’s heroin addiction is not something easily controlled. And he has a hard time understanding how Clay’s partner, Matt, deals with it. Freddie flees one dysfunctional family just to step into the middle of another. Terribly and in Private doesn’t have a Freddie, but it has similar themes of self-acceptance and a similar mother-son relationship. The mom in this play goes searching for answers from the local priest, who is reluctant about and maybe unsure of what to say. The three plays may actually answer questions for each other. I’d love to see them done together.

Two Cups and a String Theatre presents the world premiere of

ONE MORE TIME WITH MALICE
written by Rob Cardazone
directed by Eric Nightengale

March 8 - 17, 2018
at The Robert Moss Theatre
440 Lafayette Street, NYC

Charles Gershman is an award-winning playwright based in New York City. His work has been produced and developed by 59E59 Theatres, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre for the New City, La MaMa ETC, the Playwrights’ Center, The Barrow Group, ESPA/Primary Stages, the Nantucket Short Play Festival, FringeNYC, and other places across the U.S. His plays have finalists or semifinalists for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and the New York Avant Garde Arts Festival. He also writes for the screen. MFA: NYU-Tisch.




Audience member, Brooke Hoover,
reviewed One More Time with Malice —
5 stars –

"EXCELLENT play. Words can't express with how lovely this work is. As an actor, writer and producer myself when I go to plays, it's hard for me to detach myself and just watch. It is rare that a show will be so good that I CAN just watch. Well, from the get go, I did more than just watch. I was immersed. The acting, the writing, the costumes, the sound design, the lighting, the set design - everything was simply amazing. The cast worked so well together and bared so much of their souls. You can tell that they let the incredible heartfelt writing do its job, and they brought their own hearts to the work. I'm already telling friends to go see this show!!!"