The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



NEWS (Etcetera)



Los Angeles






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review
Big Al
Movies. He loved sitting there in the dark, staring at the screen. Didn't matter what kind of flick, either. Funny, scary, serious -- He loved them all. They made sense out of life.
--- Leo, using his autobiographical film script character to explain how he came to see being a part of the movie making process as his salvation.
Jordan Bridges & Juan Carlos Henande
Jordan Bridges & Juan Carlos Henandez
(Photo: Carol Rosegg))
Brian Goluboff's Big Al, which just opened at the Arclight Theatre on Manhattan's upper West Side examines a young man's dual obsession with all things Pacino and becoming a successful screenwriter. What better way to combine his admiration for Pacino with his dream of a screen writing career, than to write a film in which the actor will want to star! With Pacino recently starring in a much publicized, high-priced production of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Alberto Ui, and now appearing in an equally hyped staged reading of Wilde's Salome, the premise of an out-of-control fan with big time ambitions benefits from timeliness as well as comic potential.

I didn't see either the original one-act, one-scene version of Big Al at Ensemble Studio's One-Act Marathon series or the 1993 24-minute Showtime film, but I gather that both covered the same territory as the first of this full-length Big Al' s four scenes. Though this expanded story, which moves from the 1996 opening scene to the present, retains its connection to the Al Pacino gimmick throughout, the first segment now seems to merely jumpstart another play. Same characters. Much more serious, but much less credible.

Evan Bergman, who ably directed two other Arclight productions, does his best to crisply move along the saga of the bipolar Leo (Juan Carlos Hernandez) but hampers himself by ambitiously staging the play with a different set for each scene. The klutzy movement of wall panels and props only serves to exacerbate an overall sense of disconnection. Sure, Leo is the main character in each scene, and the finale brings his story to a conclusion of sorts, yet somehow it all feels like four separate little plays.

Scene one introduces us to the very young, poor and more than a little crazy Leo and his more grounded friend Ricky (Jordan Bridges). Both are wannabe screen writers and we get to watch them cook up a plot that will appeal to Big Al (no doubt intended as an ironic comment on the manufactured quality of today's movies). Scene two shows how Leo and Ricky's lives have taken very different, and not entirely unpredictable, turns. Scene three introduces a thriller element via a third character, Frank Rose, Jr. (David Thornton), a scary mirror of Leo's lingering fantasy life. Scene four is a redemption of sorts, in which friendship triumphs and it's left to your own sense of optimism to picture what happens next.

Hernandez, who has heretofore played mostly supporting roles, brings passion that veers toward excess to his star turn as the voluble and volatile Leo. Jordan Bridges (son of Beau and grandson of Lloyd) as Ricky valiantly struggles with some of the play's most corn-fed lines, as when he justifies his choice to work on a bill-paying kids' show rather than aiming for loftier screen writing. David Thornton, his hairdo evoking images of Kramer of the Seinfeld series, is aptly menacing in the play's most entertaining segment, a late night encounter in an empty movie studio.

Goluboff is a playwright who will be worth watching once he gives up trying to add novelty to much explored territory and asking audiences to suspend quite so much credulity. In Big Al he asks us to overlook some pretty big holes. For one thing, neither Leo and Ricky are convincingly talented. There's also the business of Leo's incarceration. It's unlikely that he would be institutionalized for years at a time when our mental institutions have been steadily emptied out (though Goluboff IS realistic in sending him back into the world unrehabilitated).

The dream of success in that most influential of pop mediums, film, is familiar but it is certainly one that speaks to a large audience. According to an article in this week's New York Times, some 26, 000 people have signed on as members of a web site called Project Greenlight on which aspiring film makers criticize each other's work and hope to find collaborators and producers. This is just one of several such web sites, one run by Kevin Spacey, whose name, like Pacino's, is sure to lend luster to any project. If Mr. Gobuloff keeps building on Leo and Ricky's story, his next scene may well be written around an Al Pacino web site.

Written by Bryan Goluboff
Directed by : Evan Bergman.
Cast: Juan Carlos Hernandez, David Thornton, Jordan Bridges.
Set Design: John Farrell
Costume Design: Markas Henry
Lighting Design: Chard McArver
Sound Design: Cynthia Touhy
Running time: 90 minutes without intermission.
Arclight Theatre, 152 w. 71 St (Broadway/Columbus). 212-239-6200
From 10/07/02; opening 11/12/02-- $35.
Wed - Fri @8PM, Sat @7PM & 10PM, Sun @7PM $40-$45
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on November 8th press preview
To an early grave November 20, 2002Order Tickets
metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from