Warren Leight’s drama is an elegy for a dysfunctional family and the end of live jazz as a musical force. Jazz trumpeter Gene, who is distant from everything but music, and his volatile wife, Terry, live through decades of poverty and turmoil, with son Clifford, the narrator, as go-between and family adult. The play has powerful moments as well as humorous lines among its wrenching incidents, black comedy, and harsh swearing. But some performances are too broad, exaggerated, or strident even for this emotionally raw play, while Frank Wood's Gene seems unrealistically impassive. Listeners sometimes miss out by not seeing expressions and actions, and are left to wonder during silences between characters. Nonetheless, some powerful scenes and performances make the experience worthwhile.
A Tony Award-winner for Best Play, Side Man delves deep into the postwar New York jazz underground through the life of a celebrated musician and his dysfunctional family. Warren Leight used his own experiences as the son of a jazz musician to create Gene, a talented but emotionally incompetent trumpeter whose pure devotion to music comes at the expense of his relationship with his resentful wife, Terry, and their self-sacrificing son, Clifford.
A L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance starring Frank Wood as Gene, Garret Dillahunt as Clifford, Christine Lahti as Terry, Kyle Colerider-Krugh as Ziggy, Kevin Geer as Jonesy, Joseph Lyle Taylor as Al, Stephanie Zimbalist as Patsy, and with live sound effects by Tony Palermo.