By EDWARD RUBIN
The Glen, written, produced, and directed by Peter B. Hodges is a ‘must see’ play. Currently running through Saturday, February 16 at Shelter Studios’ intimate 60-seat theater, The Glen is one of those plays, due to its short run, that sadly disappears as quickly as it appears. Hopefully, future productions will keep it alive and kicking for its writing, direction and acting is wonder-filled.
Though the play, with its many unexpected twists and turns, was inspired by the life of Hodge’s friend and mentor, the late theater and art critic Glenn Loney (1928-2018), the play’s lead character, the 20-something-year-old Dale Olsen (Matthew Dalton Lynch), as the playwright’s program note informs us, is not Glenn Loney.
Dale is only “the character that enabled me to explore questions of identity, sexuality and family while following a path not entirely unlike the path that Glenn himself would describe to me as his personal journey.”
Written in 27 short scenes, the play’s six actors – all but two playing multiple roles – reveal the lives of the Olsen family during the two decades stretching between 1934 and 1954. Jumping back and forth through the years, we follow Dale’s relationship with his lenient father (Len Rella) and exacting mother (Elizabeth Bove), his early and later schooling, his close relationship with his male cousin (Barry Anderson), and his troublesome two-year stint in the U.S. Army as an educational specialist with a transitional unit, preparing non-English-speaking inductees for basic training.
With all of the jumping back and forth from year to year and from one location to another, the play does get a bit confusing as to where we are at any given moment. One minute we are at the family farm in 1945, the next at Fort Ord in 1951, then at a boarding house and campground that his mother runs in 1954, then at their farm in Grass Valley, California 1942, over to Berlin in 1952, and later at a bar in 1952. Mercifully the actors, as well as the writing, both so wonderful, quickly bring us back to our senses, even as we uncross our eyes.
Dale’s relationship with his mother, despite a mutual love on both their part is prickly. And it seems to have been so from early on. Why? Well, Dale, something of a wild child with a mind of his own, always seemed to getting into trouble. One of his mother’s weapons that she wields every now and then, when she either chastises Dale or is intent in getting her way, is to remind him that he was adopted and that he has a much better life thanks to her.
His hard-working, rule-following mother, beautifully played by Elizabeth Bove has her own plans for Dale’s future which she continually throws his way. She wants him to stay at home and help her run her various businesses, which consist of a boarding house and a campground. But Dale, a mite innocent, but ultimately strong-minded, has his eye on going to college. His aim is to become a professor.
There are a number of extremely moving scenes beautifully executed by the actors, all of which hit home. Several are with his mother, two with his cousin (Noel Negly) – their attraction to each other is quite telling, as well as erotic if you mind can travel that distance – and two with his Army J.A.G. defense lawyer (a brilliant Kerry Mantle).
The most unusual scenes occur between Dale and Priscilla, a male prostitute in drag, and possibly a spy from East Germany (Daniel Stompor). Following several dates which included one-way sex – one is reminded of M Butterfly – the questionably innocent Dale, claims during an Army investigation that he that had no idea Priscilla was a man. It seems she told him she was saving herself for marriage.
Because I am not into spoilers, I will not tell spill the beans here. I will say there are a great many surprises, not only in Dale’s strange Army trial for insubordination, his strangely misidentifying the sex of the Army librarian (also played by Daniel Stompor), but in the mother’s long-hidden whopper of a secret – the unexpected coup de grace – revealed near the end of the play.
The Glen opened Off-Off Broadway on February 1, 2019 and continues through February 16 at Shelter Studios, 244 W. 54th Street in New York. Produced and directed by Peter B. Hodges, its running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes. For more information on the drama, check out the theater website here.
Matthew Dalton Lynch (Dale Olsen), Elizabeth Bove (Myrtle Olsen), Len Rella (Kenneth Olsen, Drill Instructor at Fort Ord, Military Investigator in Berlin) Thomas Grube (Uncle Bob, Major Hogge, Senior Officer at Fort Ord, Pricilla’s Friend), Barry Anderson (Noel Negly, Dale’s cousin, Private USAC). Kerry Mantle (Indian Joe, USAC Defense Lawyer), Donald Stompor (Librarian, Priscillia, Prostitute in Berlin)
Costumes: Raxann, Costume Assistant: Nilda Morales, Lighting: Brian Pacelli, Sound: Gareth Owen