And, he means all the people, sharing that his time working on Ellis Island and beyond gives him a working knowledge of English, Italian, Yiddish, Hebrew and Hungarian.
You too might find this fellow so charming that you want to blurt, “Hey, nice airport! I’ve been flying in and out of it for years!” to chat him up in kind. But you bite your tongue because such banter would really be out of chronological order, and also, you were warned that the rules of this immersive theater piece are that you don’t speak unless asked to.
He is Fiorello La Guardia (Christopher Romero Wilson) before he became one of the most known mayors in US history, and long before the then semi-swamp land in Queens became the airport of his name.
It’s election night in New York City 1929, just a week after what came to be known as Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed to smithereens. Liquor is flowing abundantly here, as in every similar speakeasy during Prohibition.
This speakeasy though is part of the famed Tammany Hall, quite literally. Long before Lower Manhattan’s Vandam Street was in what’s now called SoHo (for South of Houston), we learn from the program notes that this very Huron Club building that we are sitting in to gossip ringside with Fiorello was a Tammany Clubhouse. And if the history buffs reading this don’t already have chills of excitement, make a further note that the Huron Club property is on land that once belonged to Aaron Burr, long before he found his way into Lin Manuel Miranda’s imagination.
We are in a room where it happens. It, in this case, is the showdown between the forces of law (orchestrated by Governor FDR) and handsome fashion plate and corruption personified Mayor Jimmy Walker, aka Beau James (Martin Dockery).
Actually, we aren’t in one room but many, and the rooftop too, as the night progresses. We move from speakeasy hangout, to roof, to dressing room after dressing room, to performance space for the play within the play—Violet, starring Betty Compton (Marie Anello)—and hallways in between.
Lovers fight, politicians politick, bribers bribe, and film noir styled law men serve subpoenas and comeuppance to the bosses who wheel and deal, counting on dirty police. We too are given low maintenance roles to perform, like shining a flashlight at one of the machine bosses during the raid.
If you are a product of New York City schools, like this writer, you know of Tammany Hall and remember that you first learned the word spats when you read of Beau James in a top hat gallivanting around town. With a Tarheel companion with no such foreknowledge, we were both compelled by this production to do a follow up Google, to learn, or re-learn, more. This, in itself is a thrill, if but a somewhat muted low charge electric one. Perhaps it’s an especially uphill climb for actors in any immersive theater piece these days to get an audience energy boost from smiles that would otherwise be visible if we weren’t all masked?
You too might find a lot of the fun comes in guessing who in the audience is a shill. Is it the cheerleader personality woman who seems to be working the room in Fiorello style? What about the woman who seems to be wearing the perfect satin negligée made for the Rockettes style chorus line in Violet, though she constantly is checking her cellphone?
This is a good pick for the I-LOVE-NEW-YORK tourists now returning to New York City, and especially aficionados of the Jazz Age, as well as history buffs who love all things historic fiction.
Marie Anello (Betty Compton), Natasa Babic (Valentine), Andrew Broaddus (Battery Dan), Jesse Castellano (Kresel), Isaac J. Connor (Olvany), Martin Dockery (Beau James Walker), Shahzeb Hussain (Curry), Chloe Kekovic (Kiki), Nathaniel Ryan (Legs Diamond), Sami Petrucci (Smarty), Christopher Romero (Fiorello LaGuardia), and Charly Wenzel (Ritzi).
Megan Drury(Associate Director), Dan Daly (scenic design), Grace Jeon (costume design), Emily Clarkson (lighting design), and Megan Culley (sound design).
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 7pm & 9pm
Saturdays at 3pm, 7pm, & 9pm
Sundays at 5pm and 7pm
15 Vandam St.
New York, NY 10013
Photos by Maria Baranova
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.