Theater Review – by Jeb Ladouceur – “Angel’s Mice and Men”
Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 11:56AM
.

 Theater Review – by Jeb Ladouceur – “Angel’s Mice and Men”

 

The following interview took place in Smithtown, L.I. on June 30, 2019: 
_____________________________________________________ 

Jeb L:  First of all, Cindi, congratulations on the forthcoming debut of your new one-act play, ”Angel’s Mice and Men.” You must be excited. 

Ms. Braff:  I am beyond excited.  We have a great cast and crew, and they are really bringing this play to life. There is nothing more thrilling for a playwright than to watch your words on paper transform into staged performance. 

Jeb L:  I’m intrigued by your title. Why the allusion to “Of Mice and Men”? Are you a Steinbeck fan? 

Ms. Braff:  Loneliness is one of the primary themes in Steinbeck’s classic novella. I remember reading it in high school and being deeply affected by the characters and their lonely lives. 

Jeb L:  So the theme of Loneliness has stayed with you through the years, and finally you’ve found the characters who embody it. That must have been a powerful impression. 

Ms. Braff:  In “Angel’s Mice and Men,” every character in the play is dealing with loneliness. In one scene Angel, the protagonist, who is a young widow, says, “…I haven’t felt this alone, I don’t know, I guess ever.” Steele, the romantic interest, responds, “For me, loneliness comes as regularly as the full moon, or as irregularly as the rain.” Mrs. Bloom, widowed twice, is an aging Jewish grandmother, who is estranged from her children and grandchildren and suffering greatly from the loss of her loved ones.  Gina, Angel’s younger sister, is trying to put her loneliness to an end by placing a classified ad in the personals in hopes of finding a mate. 

Jeb L:  Does your play result in any sort of solution to the loneliness experienced by Angel and the others? 

Ms. Braff:  Yes. Just as “Of Mice and Men,” has a theme of companionship and how necessary that is for people’s survival, the four diverse characters in my play also find comfort and camaraderie in each other. Additionally, in Steinbeck’s work the mouse serves as a powerful metaphor for what will happen to George and Lennie’s dream, and is a foreshadowing device for a future event. In my play, the mouse is a metaphor for fear as well. Steinbeck took the name of his novella from the lines, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men…” from the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns, meaning that though we may make plans, life has an agenda of its own for us. This is a theme in my play as well, so the name just seemed to fit.  

Jeb L:  When did you first come up with the idea for a full-length, one-act play, and what prompted the format? 

Ms. Braff:  I originally wrote the play between 1992 and 1994 but spent last summer revamping it from a two-act play into a long one-act, which seems to be the preferred 21st century structure. I wrote it in response to a New York Times article astutely stating that so much of modern theatre was just about four people sitting around a room being rude to each other, and I thought, how about writing a play about four people being good to each other?  

Jeb L:  You’ve chosen the marvelous TracyLynn Conner as your protagonist. The great Jeffrey Sanzel of Theatre Three has called her a director’s dream. Do you concur? 

Ms. Braff:  By all means, though in a sense, one actually doesn’t have to direct TracyLynn at all. She is a natural-born actress who does her homework well. When I do give her an occasional suggestion, she always responds with, “Thank you for that.” TracyLynn is an absolute pleasure to work with. She is professional, hardworking, committed to her craft, and a team player. 

Jeb L:  Tell us something about the venue where your play will be staged. 

Ms. Braff:  The venue was selected by NYSUMMERFEST Theater Festival, and it is the perfect hall for this play. It’s a 99-seat theater, and the view of the stage from any seat is amazing. The intimate venue allows the audience to feel the full impact of live theater, because they really are up close and personal with the characters. The acoustics are great as well. This allows the actors to perform without microphones, once again, making the whole experience very real. This creates a superb emotional impact for not only the audience, but for the actors as well. I must tell you, it was after reading Tennessee William’s Glass Menagerie as a junior at Calhoun High School in Merrick  that I decided I wanted to be a playwright when I grew up. I was thrilled to learn that in 1979, one of Williams’ new works at the time, “Greve Coeur,” was produced at the Hudson Guild Theater. What an honor to grace the same space Tennessee Williams once set foot upon!

 Jeb L:  Your husband TJ is a literary fellow; to what extent, if any, is he involved in the creation and staging of “Angel’s Mice and Men”

Ms. Braff:  He read the play … loved it … and insisted that it get produced, always being more than generous with both his emotional and financial support. TJ is really gracious and he allows our home to become a rehearsal space every Monday and Wednesday evening. Furthermore, he’s our self-appointed caterer, making sure there’s food and beverages for the entire cast and crew. 

Jeb L:  What’s next from the pen of playwright Cindi Sansone-Braff? Are there any more self-help books on the horizon? 

Ms. Braff:  I am finishing up the last of my Long Island trilogy of plays, which includes “Angel’s Mice and Men,” “Phantom Pain,” and “The Karma Bums.”  “The Karma Bums” is a comedy that addresses all things spiritual and metaphysical. It’s set in Northport in “The House of Karma,” a New Age mini-mart, a phenomenal place where the here and hereafter meet, mingle, and merge on an everyday basis. As for my next non-fiction book, it is a memoir titled: “Confessions of a Reluctant Long Island Psychic.”

Jeb L:  Sounds interesting. We look forward to your newest production at New York’s Hudson Guild Theatre on July 30, July 31, and August 3. Break a leg, my friend. 

Ms. Braff:  Thank you, Jeb. I think E.B. White must have had you in mind when he wrote, “It’s rare that someone comes along who is a true friend and a fine writer.” For sure, you’re both!
  ________________________________________________________________
CINDI SANSONE-BRAFF has a BFA in theatre from UCONN. She is an award-winning playwright / director, and the author of two spiritual self-help books, “Grant Me a Higher Love,” and “Why Good People Can’t Leave Bad Relationships.” Her full-length music drama, “Beethoven’s Promethean Concerto in C Minor,” was produced in 2017 at the BACCA Arts Center. Ms. Braff lives in Patchogue with her author husband TJ Clemente. TRACYLYNN CONNER (Angel Ventura) TracyLynn Conner is thrilled to be starring in the lead role of Angel in this original play. She has recently been featured in “Bridges of Madison County” (Francesca), “The Addams Family” (Morticia), “Nine” (Claudia), and “Curtains” (Georgia). Other favorite roles include: “Amadeus” (Constanze), “West Side Story” (Maria), “The Children’s Hour” (Karen), and the Annual Festival of One-Act Plays at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. 

JEB LADOUCEUR is a syndicated theater and book reviewer. His critiques appear regularly in a number of leading Long Island newspapers and online publications. He is the author of 12 published novels in the thriller genre.

Article originally appeared on Smithtown Matters - Online Local News about Smithtown, Kings Park, St James, Nesconset, Commack, Hauppauge, Ft. Salonga (http://www.smithtownmatters.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.