David Deblinger is one of America’s greatest unknown actors. His being unknown will all change when audiences see his superb, new one man show “Lucky Penny.” Wherein he relates his life story. Why him one might ask? Because his talent justifies it and Deblinger’s heart is just so big and so inclusive it nearly bursts out of him as the urgency of what he has to say is as beautiful, as it is poignant and also hilarious.
Strikingly similar to the one woman show I saw just before Hanukah, Monica Piper’s “Not That Jewish”, Deblinger IS that Jewish and uses his remarkable father as a lynch-pin to his story the way Piper did with hers. He is however not alone on the stage. Fred Johnson, a veteran African-American singer/actor gracefully accompanies Deblinger’s excoriating monologues with marvelous musical accompaniment on a variety of instruments, African and otherwise, providing the perfect counter-point and punctuation to Deblinger’s majestically moving monologues and stories.
Being one of the founding members of the Off Off Broadway Labyrinth Theater company, whose late leader Phillip Seymour Hoffman is richly depicted here by Deblinger in a way I won’t spoil, Deblinger has obviously been heavily influenced by his late friend, and the devastation of his passing is evident on Deblinger. It becomes the fulcrum of the evening, but always veers back to Deblinger’s difficult relationship with his late father whose decline into decrepitude is the other major story line running through “Lucky Penny.”
Deblinger is a very nimble and athletic performer and employs his plastic face and agile body in the transformation into many, many characters. Many of them, like in Piper’s show, are Jewish. Deblinger is not out to convert any one or explain Judaism as Piper does. But he wants you to make sure you will never forget his family. Especially his irksome, challenging, working class father.
His depiction and enactment of the many hospitals and homes that he finds his father relegated to as his life nears its end are rather unforgettable and frightening. Deblinger is chameleon-like so no character is outside his wide and diverse range. A young character actor, Deblinger will come into his own as he ages into the appropriate range, but as I said, he is capable of playing anything and anyone.
And his transformation into the multitude of characters he has encountered in his life is one of the evenings chief delights. His brief moment with Meryl Streep at Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s memorial is a highlight of the evening, as he totally blows his accidental encounter with his idol. His overwhelment(is that even a word?) is hilarious. So is his seduction of a Senorita from Balboa when he is in Spain.
She doesn’t seem to be the girl he marries, though he is married at the end of the play which ends, no spoilers here, with his enactment of his wife giving birth to his son. Juxtaposed with the final passing of his beloved father.
“Lucky Penny” is not to be missed and David Deblinger is a young actor not to be forgotten. “Lucky Penny” I predict will be cherished and remembered. You can see why Phillip Seymour Hoffman thought so much of him.
“Lucky Penny” is at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, which is located at 31 West 27th Street. The performances will be held on the second floor in Studio Theater B. It runs though January.
#Labyrinth Theater Company
# Phillip Seymour Hoffman
# Meryl Streep