Engaging Actors in Flawed ‘Park’
“Gramercy Park Is Closed to the Public,” at the Hudson, has a sweetly ingenuous quality, as if a young schoolgirl had opened her personal diary for our perusal. Unfortunately, the play also contains florid plot twists more appropriate to a daytime soap.
Toni Ann Johnson, who wrote the play, also appears as Luna, the offspring of a biracial marriage, caught between two cultures.
After her white boyfriend is killed in a senseless incident on the subway, Luna gives birth to his child, opens a small health club, and begins getting back to her black roots, much to the delight of her proudly black grandma (Vivian Smallwood).
Luna’s star-crossed relationship with a white cop, Neil (James Dumont), culminates in the shooting of an impoverished black youth (Damian Cagnolatti), a tragedy for which both Luna and Neil blame themselves.
Johnson’s characters relate their feelings a bit too glibly, and the various crises, particularly the death of the near-saintly youth, seem forced.
The actors are engaging, particularly Smallwood as the feisty grandmother, but their efforts cannot ultimately redeem Johnson’s well-intentioned but faulty dramaturgy.
* “Gramercy Park Is Closed to the Public,” Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Ends July 3. $15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.