San Francisco Fringe 2022
What is courage? What is cowardice? Must we relinquish our self-esteem to survive? Two brothers come to vastly different conclusions as they respond to their “greatest generation” father and uncles and Muhammad Ali, who changes everything. It is inspired by my belief that the Vietnam War shaped the lives of baby boomers whether they set foot in Vietnam or not and that Muhammad Ali is a hero who in standing up for his freedom stood up for ours. I dedicate these performances to his memory and to everyone whose life was upended or lost by that disaster.
This is a coming of age story about a boy who grows up among a family of interesting characters and it is equally about Vietnam, specifically the Vietnam war.
Edward Lebowitz tells us about the boy who has to make important decisions when he grows up. Lebowitz is currently a physician living in San Francisco, and it is he who wrote this solo performance play and performs it. Directed by Warren David Keith and mentored in development by David Ford the play effectively takes us back to another time by its characterizations, storytelling performance and writing.
At first there is a distinctive vibe of the 50s when Lebowitz begins his story…Uncle Sid is sitting next to him with a cigar exclaiming that “Clay is a lion!” Lebowitz plays several characters each with a different opinion about life – and about Clay – and how he is doing in the match. Lebowitz mentions the punches and arm swings, rings a bell on the table in front of him and we are suddenly in the 6th round of this boxing match! Lebowitz sits looking straight ahead as if watching the match live. He changes voice tones and his face focuses in another direction when he plays characters or has conversations with one or more people.
Lebowitz is deliberate and down home in his descriptions of family and friends in the story, he clearly has strong memories since he was a young man in the 60s as he retells moments from the past. Tony Bacigalupo is a pal from this time, who, among other things, swipes Lebowitz.
It is now May 1967 and Lebowitz paints the picture of the times he was walking in New York City where tie died clothes and moccasins were the things to wear. A highlight is the wonderful description of a pastrami sandwich! Lebowitz is in his stride with smooth pacing, good timing and he moves around the space for different locations and events in this sincere performance. He could benefit from using more vocal variety such as volume and emphasis to project to all rows, which will no doubt develop during the run.
At this point in the story Lebowitz has to decide on a future career and makes his choice. Being of an age eligible to fight in a war is serious and Lebowitz like many young men at this time is conflicted.
The ending is deeply moving and relatable. However, in these final moments of the heartfelt story that are serious Lebowitz finds some welcome levity.