Gemini Man

Gemini Coming to Woods Theatre

With a towering, eroded brick apartment setting the stage, Monmouth’s Woods Theatre gets a slice of blue-collar South Philadelphia for the Department of Music and Theatre Arts production of Albert Innaurato’s 1976 dramedy, Gemini.

Directed by Jack Burke, Ph.D. Director of Theatre Arts, and Katherine Fernandez, Assistant Director the ’70s-set Gemini revolves around the 21st birthday of Harvard student Francis Geminiani (Anthony DeFilippo). On the eve of the big day, Geminiani is surprised by his two Ivy-league chums, privileged siblings Judith (London Jones) and Randy Hastings (Riley Anderson), who pitch a tent in Francis’ South Philly backyard.

Culture shock to them, the Hastings are thrown into the loud world of Francis’ father, laborer Fran Geminiani (Joe Marano), and Fran’s widowed girlfriend Lucille Pompi (Samantha Ventola & Dominique Lengyel). In the adjoining home resides the wild Bunny Weinberger (Emily Woods) and her asthmatic son, Herschel (Nick Sewell). Chaos and hilarity ensue for everyone, especially the birthday boy, who has serious self-reflection to do upon the Hastings’ arrival.

Tackling topics of cultural division, familial conflict, sexuality, and more, Gemini is packed with meaning. When the cast members rehearse, they channel excellent levels of energy and professionalism to execute each character with intention and style.

Burke selected the show because of its ability to challenge the cast in material and emotional depth.

On the impact of the show, Burke described universal goals for Gemini’s characters, “They’re all looking for a way to be happy, but they don’t know how to yet. They need to be true to themselves, but they still haven’t found that truth.”

Burke continued, “The search for happiness and truth comes especially through the younger characters. But even the older characters struggle. For example, Bunny has not found her truth, and that impacts her son, Herschel.”

Herschel, portrayed by sophomore Sewell, is a 16-year-old with a severe case of asthma and an obsession with the subway system. With hardened and unpredictable Bunny as a mother, Herschel is funny, but not without hard-hitting depth.

Sewell described the process of encompassing both comedic and dramatic elements of Herschel’s character, “I’ve always liked the more serious roles, but I also have an appreciation for and trust in good comedic timing.”

Sewell elaborated, “Switching between comedy and drama is natural for me, but Herschel is also written in a way that enables that smooth switch.”

Through and through, comedy always shines through in Gemini. Witnessing the seven characters interact is investing and unpredictable: a colorful ethnography from a time past. Especially through adults Fran, Lucille, and Bunny, the often dark, explosive humor is impossible to ignore.

Lucille Pompi, portrayed by sophomore Lengyel, brings a well-known persona to the stage (think Sunday dinners with an Italian family from the tri-state area): crass, oversharing, and warm.

Getting into Lucille’s head, Lengyel described how she channeled personal experiences, “My mom’s side of the family is Italian, and I’ve been around Italians my whole life…I was excited to curse a lot in Italian.”

Continuing, Lengyel laughed when recalling the inspiration for Lucille, “I used to work with a woman who embodied a Lucille in every way and channeled her in auditions, which ultimately worked. Shout-out to Mindy!”

Expressed in a March 14, 1977 review in The New York Times, Gemini was a hit from previews because of its huge personality. The original run spawned a 1980 screen adaptation, as well as a 1982 “staged-for-video” version for cable TV.

Critics and audience members alike took well to the rejuvenation of stage content, and the first Broadway run became the longest-running non-musical of the postwar period.

Today, Gemini remains as the fourth-longest running play in Broadway history, according to Theater-goers nationwide continue to notice the stand-out qualities of Innaurato’s show in its spotlight on a less-than-traditional line-up of characters.

Needless to say, Monmouth’s cast brings that stand-out energy.

Burke concluded with praise: “We have a truly strong cast of actors. It is often difficult to find a complete cast, but we have one here in Gemini.”

Stuffed with hearty laughs, emotional poignancy, and a cast of talented actors and creatives, Gemini is a heaping, bittersweet serving of family.

Don’t miss Gemini at the Lauren K. Woods Theatre from March 4 through 12.

Gemini is not recommended for audience members under 13 years of age. For more information and ticket purchase opportunities, stop by the Box Office or call the Box Office at 732-263-6889.

PHOTO TAKEN by Erica Barbara