While it sometimes feels like it says too much to make things more complicated than they need be, as time goes on, you realize avoiding simplicity is the point.
|Venue or Network||Harvey Theater|
|Address||651 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217 USA|
|Performance Date||February 9, 2023|
|First Performance At This Venue||February 4, 2023|
|Last Performance At This Venue||March 24, 2023|
|Tickets Starting At||$35|
|Genre(s)||Play, Drama, Young Adult, Historical|
|Duration||2 Hours 45 Minutes with intermission|
|Sidney Brustein||Oscar Isaac|
|Iris Parodus Brustein||Rachel Brosnahan|
|David Ragin||Glenn Fitzgerald|
|Alton Scales||Julian De Niro|
|Gloria Parodus||Gus Birney|
|Mavis Parodus Bryson||Miriam Silverman|
|Max||Raphael Nash Thompson|
|Wally O’Hara||Andy Grotelueschen|
It’s the 60s, and for many, it is a time for upheaval, and with the upheaval of social norms comes hope, self-discovery, joy, and conversation. For Sidney, he enjoys the conversation, sometimes a debate, but to maintain his last grasp on hope, he stays away from committing to anything that’s too big.
Unfortunately, his wife Iris knows this too well after five years of him picking apart her dreams and her growing tired of being his dream girl. But they aren’t alone in struggling with what could be, what is, and trying to live somewhere in the middle.
Their upstairs neighbor, David, is a gay playwright who could never fathom, after more than a dozen plays, having a hit. Or Alton, Sidney’s political friend, a reformed communist, he couldn’t imagine loving a girl like Gloria, Iris’ little sister.
Though, he isn’t alone in that way if thinking. Mavis, Iris’ older sister, couldn’t imagine a negro, light-skinned or otherwise, coming into the family. A Jew like Sidney has been struggle enough. But, as we learn over time, everyone is struggling. Be it with the story they try to live up to, the one they tell themselves, or the one they avoid.
Things To Note
- Dialog: Cursing throughout
- Violence: Not applicable
- Sexual Content: Outside of a character in their underwear, no
- Miscellaneous: Drinking and drug use
Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.
Sidney is a man who lives in the city yet has romanticized the life of the mountains and all that could give him. But, while in love with mountain life, he has invested everything in the city. Be it creating a bar that plays folk music, which failed, or now owning a newspaper he cannot afford.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Solid Snake in the upcoming “Metal Gear Solid,” Francis Ford Coppola in the upcoming “Francis and the Godfather,” and Marc Spector/ Steven Grant/ and Moon Knight in “Moon Knight.”
Originally from Oklahoma, Iris wanted to become an actress, thanks to her dad having her and her sisters do plays growing up. But, while a talented dancer, acting isn’t her forte, so her career never skyrocketed.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Miriam ‘Midge’ Maisel in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Jean in “I’m Your Woman,” and Abby Isaacs in “Manhattan.”
David is a gay man and a playwright who has written over a dozen plays but, with one of his recent ones, he finally has a hit, and is becoming more than Sidney and Iris’ queer upstairs neighbor.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Brian Darling in “Dirty Sexy Money,” Aaron Buchbinder in “Six Feet Under,” and Sean in “The Sixth Sense.”
Alton is a friend of Sidney’s who is very political and does, at times, butt heads with Sidney’s passiveness that he has grown into.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Young Barack Obama in “The First Lady”
Gloria is Iris’ younger sister who, since she was about 19, has been a sex worker, potentially under coercion.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: An unknown role in the upcoming “Three Birthdays,” Gaynor Phelps in “Shining Vale,” and Jane Humphreys in “Dickinson.”
Mavis is Iris’ older sister who appears to have the perfect life, which some would say is why she focuses so much on what Iris and Gloria are doing.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Lara in “Dead Ringers,” Bernice in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and Hana in “Breaking.”
Max is an artist, a man of a certain age, who loves a good laugh but is sensitive about certain topics.
- You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Ray Moore/ Ray Mason in “Soul Food” and Judge Hellerman in “Search Party”
Wally is a politician in the making who is all too excited about Sidney starting a paper and potentially supporting his campaign.
When The Word Vomit Ceases And People Get Real
A lot of conversations in “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” can seem philosophical and deep, but mainly they are showy. It’s to show off one’s vocabulary, knowledge of political terms, but rarely to push conversations forward but rather to push people back. This can make the nearly three-hour play tiring as everyone’s intelligence or the assumption thereof, you can see is a shield.
This includes Alton, or another character named Max, using their Blackness or sense of authority over some type of creativity. Sidney often uses his age over Iris to downplay her thoughts, undercut her dreams, and twist the knife whenever she wins a battle but hasn’t the energy to fight Sidney’s unending war.
But, for many, there comes a point when they surrender. They are tired of fighting with each other, themselves, or against what seems like a sealed fate. It’s in these moments you get more than a reprieve; you get a sense of what everyone seems to want: connection, validation, and genuine empathy.
Mavis starts by revealing the truth no one could guess, and while not all follow suit, those that do save the show.
From the physicality of Oscar Isaac to the comedic timing of Rachel Brosnahan and Miriam Silverman, laughter helps alleviate most of the first half, which is a word salad. Maybe not to the point you remember a specific joke or moment, but you do remember there is more than enough to break up the unending conversations.
Gloria gets a special note because we don’t see her in the play’s first half. She is someone mentioned, but we don’t get to experience her until after intermission, and she lives up to expectations. The baby sister, the girl who, for most of her life, has been a nomadic sex worker, is both all you’d expect and yet, at the same time, defies stereotypes. She’s sweet but troubled. Morality might not be tightly screwed, but there is a desire to improve. And boy, does she break your heart. In fact, she is the best person to present the final revealing portrait.
Sidney A Better Brother Than Husband
Considering how you watch Sidney’s relationship with Iris deteriorate, the connection he has to Mavis and Gloria can be a bit shocking. In some ways, each of Iris’ sisters and herself seem to see bits and pieces of their dad in Sidney, and you can tell it triggers her nostalgia. Heck, it might be why Iris married him. And, all things considered, poppa being dead might be why Mavis confesses to a man she rarely understands yet so badly wants to. Like her father, he is a bit of an enigma, and while she struggles to understand him, the idea appears that maybe they could be closer if he understood her.
For Gloria, it might be the same way. To be as radically accepted as it seems most in the Brustein household are would be a blessing. But what Gloria doesn’t know is that only those at arm’s length, who don’t know the intimate details of Sidney’s failures and faults get that treatment. Those are the type he listens to and sees as they are, without the smoke or mirrors.
Iris longed for that, but it seems she got trapped in a narrative that didn’t allow her to grow and be as honest and vulnerable as her sisters. So, in the long run, they got the brother they always needed or wanted, while Iris got the man who didn’t compensate for the potential trauma her dad caused but simply amplified it by seducing her into a vulnerable place and co-signing every dark and insecure thought she ever had.
Alton and David Delivering Liberal Wake-Up Calls
It’s 1964 in the play, and you can tell there is this idea between Iris and Sidney that, in some way, they are progressive. But, some scenes make it clear they are not, and sometimes they are called out for it. The big way David and Alton share is calling out Sid and Iris for not being political when it matters.
One example is Alton being homo-averse, and he says hurtful things around David, and David takes offense that Iris and Sidney are accepting of all people, even those who don’t like him and would call him out of his name. Then with Alton, being that he is Black, his issues stem from a lack of recognition of what that means for him, when it comes to his friendship with the Brusteins. Be it his relationship with Gloria or how the perception of them not seeing race means they don’t see him.
On The Fence
Max and Wally’s Story
While many have a lot to say, and if you dig enough, you can see beyond the bravado and streams of consciousness, it’s harder to get something out of Max and Wally. Yes, Wally does present the idea you either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain, but his story is through being talked about than him actually presenting something.
As for Max? I’m afraid to say that he lacks impact. David speaks from a gay perspective, Alton from a Black male perspective, and Max doesn’t have much beyond trying to speak on some form of creativity, but like most of the diatribe, there is a lot said but rarely something so insightful it resonates with you.
Our Rating: Positive (See Live)
Though there are times when the incessant talking feels less about communication and more about bragging, when characters are allowed to be vulnerable and real, and have conversations that are about human connection? That is when “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” flourishes. For the goal of it seems to be for you to understand how much people fill the air about anything but their truth, and how avoiding what brings you joy or allowing others to
When The Word Vomit Ceases And People Get Real - 88%
The Comedy - 81%
Gloria - 84%
Sidney A Better Brother Than Husband - 86%
Alton and David Delivering Liberal Wake Up Calls - 84%
Max and Wallys Story - 73%
The biggest struggle a person may have with “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” is that it bogs itself down with too many characters who operate on showmanship, and while it creates breaks to laugh and allow characters to get real, some may feel it doesn’t happen enough.
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