Shanley’s greatest hits in ‘Bard of the Bronx’

Bard of the Bronx poster

Douglas College’s anthology play a little off-key

By Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer

In the world of Broadway, John Patrick Shanley is the giant on whose shoulders other playwrights stand. A Pulitzer and Tony award-winning writer for screen and stage, he has penned over 23 plays since his debut in 1982, often directing his own work and continuing to write to this day. In celebration of his long and influential career, Douglas College’s Bard of the Bronx collects scenes from his most well-regarded plays and films.

The unique difficulty with arranging anthology plays is that each scene must function as a thematic emissary for the play it’s taken from without the benefit of any rising action. Getting to the point in this way is easier to do on film thanks to dramatic camera work and editing studios. On stage, the actors must rise to the occasion and tell an entire play’s story in one scene.

Noah Oryema was a crowd pleaser as both Aldo and Ronny, characters from Shanley’s famous comedies Italian American Reconciliation and Moonstruck. He’s one of those rare comedic actors who can get a laugh just by being on stage. Loretta Castorini’s (Alice Knechtel) elopement with Ronny is one of the crowning comedic moments of the play, and it’s clear both actors are enjoying their work.

Though Savage in Limbo isn’t my favorite Shanley play, Lily Gillette makes a compelling case for borderline certifiable drunk April White. Her endless nervous tics were disturbing to watch and her stilted dialogue was morbidly comic. In the role of Linda Rotunda, Pamela Martinez shows a striking talent for bursting into tears at the drop of a hat, one of the toughest things for most actors to accomplish. Rounding out the scene, Chantelle Pryznyk brings a genuine frustration to Denise Savage, one of the most repressed characters Shanley’s ever written.

Despite the palpable tension in her performance, I can’t help but feel Shannon Lindsey Tauber got the short end of the stick as Sister Aloysius. Doubt: A Parable was a great work of drama, and I would have liked to see what she could do with one of the more pivotal scenes.

Of the actors in the scene from Women of Manhattan, Rebecca Troock was my personal favorite. She is very skilled at affecting the superficial high-class malaise that characterizes the play, and she wears the opulent costumes well. Her turn as the tortured Roberta in Danny and the Deep Blue Sea opposite returning Douglas College theatre alumni Parker Thompson is both unexpected and effective.

The set only contains some tables, chairs, a backdrop with the occasional film projection, and a hidden double-door. Considering the size of the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, that’s a lot of space to fill. These are not small challenges for a troupe of student actors to overcome, but in placing incredible pressure on the actors they create some outstanding work as a result.

However, there were some details in the performance that didn’t work for me. I found the accents to be inconsistent at best—in striving for an Italian-American accent, the cast seems to have overshot the mark and hit a Long Island Jewish accent instead. A little more work in this area would have cleared up a lot of my concerns.

While it is a nice gesture to arrange for all the actors to play significant roles, I personally would prefer a full-length Shanley play to a segmented anthology. The actors are to be applauded for facing the difficulties presented by this format, even if the work subverts the original dramatic structure.

Catch Bard of the Bronx from now until November 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre at the Douglas College New Westminster campus. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 each, or $10 for students, and are available through Tickets New West at