Audience Review: SOMETHING INTANGIBLE at Spotlight Theater

by Patricia Bradford

In the course of the play, Tony Wiston identifies “something intangible” as that elusive element that makes a creation work. The spark that turns a good script into a great production is the quality of the performances on display in Bruce Graham’s SOMETHING INTANGIBLE.

Although the lead characters share the last name of Wiston, the inspiration for this tale are real life brothers Walt and Roy, whose last name is now synonymous with top notch animation. Brandon Young takes on the role of Tony Wiston, creative genius and the mind behind beloved cartoon character Petey Pup. Young is exuberant and driven, investing a wealth of energy into his portrayal. He is completely convincing as an artist bursting with ideas that both fire him up and totally drain him. Brother Dale Wiston (Christopher Tolomeo) has the challenging task of both encouraging Tony, and reigning him in. Striking the right balance is just as exhausting for him. Tolomeo is on stage the whole time and the play is presented through his eyes. Tolomeo’s Dale is smart and compassionate, as big a presence as Tony, but painted in subtler tones. Both actors are outstanding, and the interplay between them feels familial and natural.

As Dale walks the audience through the story, he also walks between Tony’s studio and Dr. Feldman’s office. The lighting changes, but the set doesn’t, allowing for easy scene transitions. Sonia Feldman (Susan Blair) is professional and calm, and a welcome change for him as she allows him to express himself. Dale has a gift for making people feel comfortable, and we can watch the process by watching Sonia. Blair evolves from a clinical professional into a woman with personality and depth. Quite an achievement, as the character never moves from her chair.

Always at play are the warring ideas of arts gratia artis and art for profitability. Doc Bartelli (Michael Mogar) has historically funded the Wiston brothers and is Petey Pup’s biggest fan. Mogar displays boyish delight at the idea of a new cartoon adventure, but is visibly perplexed by discussions of visionary animation. Impressive in his acting debut is James Emmi as Leo, a young animator. Leo perks up when in the throes of artistic inspiration, and becomes a bit sullen when his ideas are squelched. Emmi presents a Leo who is youthful, striving to be taken seriously, and tireless. Conductor Gustave Von Meyerhoff (Joe Tranchitella) doesn’t need anyone to tell him how talented he is – he is well aware of it. Tranchitella is pompous and snitty and it is easy to believe he is the accomplished maestro. Watching Tony and Von Meyerhoff dance around each other’s egos is a lot of fun.

Director Josh Gosselin has assembled a terrific cast who have breathed life into a play about animation, and finances, and family, and art, and balance. It works. It’s SOMETHING INTANGIBLE.

Show dates run through March 18th. Spotlight Theater, 129 Park Avenue, Swarthmore PA 19081 (610) 328-1079

Spotlight Theater

Review submitted by:
Anne Lannak

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