What happens when a man who used to be a mover and shaker suddenly can’t even hold a spoon to his own mouth? According to playwright Gary Morgenstein, a lot happens, most of it is unpleasant, some of it darkly funny, and all of it is very undignified.
In this one-act, Morgenstein uses a convention whereby powerful attorney Stan Nagel, played by Carlo Fiorletta, is unable to speak following a series of strokes, but can be heard in dialogue nonetheless by best friend Jack Sanders, a failing playwright who is Stan’s only visitor. Stan’s home health aid Patrice, played by the brilliant Olivia Baseman, experiences Stan as non-verbal and unable to accomplish the simplest of tasks, but Jack, when Patrice leaves the room, can hold complete conversations with Stan about everything from old sexual conquests to the meaning of success.
The play is brief, but nonetheless achieves a kind of slow burn, as we learn that Stan has left seven million dollars to Jack in his will, which may be executed sooner than Jack thinks. Patrice has designs on Stan herself, planning a wedding to a man who has no more agency nor independence of movement than a ventriloquists dummy.
Jordan Auslander as Jack brings an engaging authenticity and desperation to his role, making us feel for the guy who brings his cantankerous best friend a pet to keep him company and trying, despite the objections of his caregiver, to reintroduce him to the joys of prosciutto. Olivia Baseman plays the dippy Patrice with subtlety and flair, making us see her point of view despite that point of view being from somewhere in cloud cuckooland.
In the end, the play has something to say about connections – how they are built, how they are dispatched, and how they can end. Stan has three ex-wives who only care about his money, and even potentially a soon-to-be widow in Patrice, but it’s the relationship with Jack that ultimately pays off in a way neither of them expected.
Stephen King recently tweeted that he thought the most interesting stories are the ones about tensions between two friends. Having seen “Saving Stan”, I think Gary Morgenstein might agree.
Saving Stan will be performed again at the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival at the 14th Street Y on Monday, August 7th, at 7 PM.