Plane Love by Rosary O’Neill Performed at the Players Club

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Clark Gable and Carol Lombard who had a passionate romance that developed into an enduring love and successful marriage until Lombard’s life was cut short. Plane Love by Rosary Hartel O’Neill references the relationship of these two celebrities.

You know how you can see one version of a play with one set of actors and another version with different actors and a whole new meaning is presented with different themes and an enhanced understanding? Last month Rosary Hartel O’Neill’s play Plane Love directed by Melissa Attebery and starring David Copeland and Shana Farr presented at the Player’s Club in New York City had that effect on me. The play had a previous showing a year ago at the National Arts Club with a different group of actors and production values. I enjoyed it then and thought the play’s promise, if picked up by other Off Off Broadway producers had the potential to create momentum and drift up the line so that it could create a followership as happens with many Off Off Broadway productions.

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Rosary O’Neill and Diane Bernhardt (then President) at the National Arts Club reading of Plane Love.

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The reading of Plane Love was held in one of the many anterooms of the National Arts Club’s beautiful Victorian building which is a historic landmark.

A bit about Rosary Hartel O’Neill, the playwright before I discuss the play will elucidate some interesting details. I’ve known Rosary’s work now for over a year and have been privileged to have seen a number of her plays presented in scene studies at the Actor’s Studio. I have seen a few presentations of Plane Love, one at the National Arts Club and the other at The Actor’s Studio. I have read a number of her dynamic plays and absolutely love her The Awakening of Kate Chopin, based on the real life Kate Chopin. (If you have not read Chopin’s groundbreaking The Awakening, regardless of whether you are male or female, it is a compelling story and you will walk away from it shocked, your intellect, your soul lazered.)

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Rosary O’Neill and Melissa Attebery (Director) at the Player’s Club cafe.

O’Neill’s play The Awakening of Kate Chopin reveals how the real Kate Chopin came to write The Awakening. O’Neill strips open the events which are iconic in shaping Chopin’s phenomenal work. After The Awakening was published and universally vilified with criticism nearly likening her to the maw of Satan (Male critics at that time were terrorized by the true tenants of her themes.) Chopin never wrote or published another word again. O’Neill’s play is historical yet modern, it is vibrant and transfixing and it should be added to the repertory of seminal works showing casing men’s and women’s struggles with self-definition as they attempt to step beyond issues of sexual stereotype and fail miserably. Sound familiar? Welcome to the 21st century. Chopin’s character is a modern day Medea with a twist. O’Neill’s play examines the Kate who could write such an incredible story.

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David Copeland (Actor’s Studio actor) and Shana Farr in the library of the Player’s Club where the reading was held.

Plane Love echoes some of the struggles of love, autonomy in relationships and trust revealed in the play The Awakening of Kate Chopin. But Plane Love has lighter notes, is clever and witty with the deep undercurrents playfully brought to the surface in a successful expiation. Interestingly, it too, has a basis in real life relationships. The characters and situation are styled after a celebrated Hollywood couple, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard who were passionate for each other and fit together in a Plato’s soul love that is rarely duplicated. It was a love that Gable never overcome after Lombard’s death in a plane crash.  The couple in Plane Love is also mirrored to some extent to reflect O’Neill’s relationship with her current husband, Bob. Rosary and Bob met on a plane and grew their romance through letters. (In the play they chat via e-mails and IMs. Tweets and Facebook posts are too potentially public. Yes, folks their love chats were private and personal, not to be shared with others in this Anthony Weiner social media culture of “fat finger” clicking mistakes.) Their absences, because of Bob’s extensive travel and Rosary’s living in another part of the country made their joyful hearts bond with the heat of their words and imaginations. Distance love can be a really great spur for passion.

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Shana Farr plays the role styled after Carole Lombard in her relationship and marriage to Clark Gable. Melissa Attebery is introducing the play.

Energetic and vital David Copeland and Shana Farr melded with the ethers of director Melissa Attebery and the result was dynamic and alive. Some script changes were made for the better and the ending  was supernally charged and had morphed from the time I had seen it at the National Arts Club and the Actor’s Studio. I will not give a spoiler alert except to say that the changes made the poignancy and connections to today really pop. I was moved and emotionally affected where in the previous versions I was not. The actors subtly and seamlessly developed the relationship between the characters through their power and ability to be eternally present. Exceptional acting talent whispered and nuanced the delicacy of how couples bond, the wheels and woes of emotional stripping and unmasking toward trust, the inevitable hurts and glories and the risks of unifying one soul to another.

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After the performance, the audience applauds . David Copeland, Rosary O’Neill and Shana Farr

This production for me proves that casting excellent talents like Copeland and Farr is essential, good direction is paramount. A fine play will stand despite mediocre direction and a lack of will on the part of all concerned. Nevertheless, the audience will walk away from such live theater feeling something was not quite right, there was a drop of energy, the actors had a bad night or the play had dead spots. And as such, a good play will be forgotten until it is unearthed two decades later and electrically the cast gets it, the director is on fire, there is a unity of spectacle and everything is right. That is when the audience walks away with a sigh of relief, energized in a catharsis of human feeling and the play has a long run or a full run.

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Great actor Edwin Booth purchased the Victorian building off Gramercy Park to have a place where he and his actor friends could congregate and enjoy themselves. He hired Stanford White to renovate the place adding various features which were conducive to enjoying parties and seeing plays. There is a cafe downstairs and auditorium with a stage on the second floor. There is an amazing library with old volumes and the place is festooned with paintings and pictures and drawings of actors. Booth also had White renovate an upstairs portion where he had apartments for himself. When all this was finished, Booth lived at the Player’s Club for five years and then died…presumably a happier man for giving his actor friends a comfortable and convivial place to hang out in NYC,

This production of Plane Love was in the second category. Look for the playwright, the actors and the director. They are not fading away, and look for Plane Love to gradually get its wings and fly uptown eventually toward wider avenues and brighter lights.

Posted on March 5, 2013, in NYC Theater Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Sounds interesting. Clark Gable was such a playboy. To understand that he was likely still heartbroken makes sense.

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  2. He was. I think he was almost more of a playboy afterward…to try to forget. He didn’t…and then he just aged with regret. (didn’t realize the rhyme until after…lolol

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  3. I’ve never been to a play reading like this. I imagine it is interesting and a bit like Reader’s Theater?

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    • Exactly. There has been an organic improvement with this play. Great to see. With plays somehow it’s easier when you have a great cast…to tweak the lines. Hard with novel writing…you have to rely on the editor and hope she/he knows what works for readers and what doesn’t. With plays, you hear the dull thuds or enthusiastic laughs.

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  4. What a great blog post. Thanks for this trip into the past. I loved reading it! 🙂

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  5. Wow. Thanks, Raani. I appreciate your support. The cast did a great job. The playwright would love to see this produced elsewhere.

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