“The Pajama Game” is a story of love and lust, fiery battles between labor leaders and corporate leaders, and exotic hideaways. Its script is bursting with emotion, passion and wit. The recent Stuyvesant Theater Community performance of “The Pajama Game,” directed by seniors Hayward Leach and Ava Woychuk-Mlinac, assistant directed by junior Serena Berry and produced by sophomore Eli Rosenberg and junior Shelly Li, was a fluid and humorous show with only a few bumps.
The show, performed on Friday, November 20 and Saturday, November 21, began with a prolonged overture that could have been twice as appreciated if it were half the length. Once the band ended its lengthy overture, Hines (senior Tasso Bountouvas), the factory efficiency expert, introduced the “symbolism” of the show and described in a humorously stiff voice the situation at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, where the workers were unsuccessfully appealing for a seven and a half cent per hour raise. Bountouvas’ humorously delivered monologue was certainly an attention-grabber, and throughout the play Bountouvas was one of the strongest actors.
The curtains opened to reveal a colorful factory scene—a job well done by the Costume and Tech crews—where women were hard at work on sewing machines and men were carrying around boxes. Myron Hassler (senior Santi Slade), the stingy boss of the factory and a “competent economist,” stepped onto the stage. Although the actor lacked the harsh brutishness his character required, Slade‘s comic relief throughout the production was a tremendous asset. Hassler’s secretary Gladys (senior Mariana Quinn-Makwaia) and superintendent secretary Mabel (senior Rhiannon Mancinelli) joined the others on stage to announce the arrival of a new superintendent. Bountouvas portrayed Hines’ jealous nature well as the audience became aware of the somewhat strained relationship between him and his girlfriend Gladys. The chorus then broke into “Racing with the Clock,” an entertaining and fun number, even if the chorus and orchestra were slightly out-of-sync.
Sid Sorokin (junior Abie Sidell), the “hunky” new superintendent, awkwardly introduced himself by shoving a coworker, who went off to file a complaint. Once alone on stage, Sidell sang an emotional solo, but couldn’t quite pull off both the feeling and the pitch.
Babe Williams (junior Rebecca Temkin), the head of the factory’s Grievance Committee, then approached Sid to discuss his earlier confrontation with the coworker. The stiffness between Temkin and Sidell somewhat doused the flame which was supposed to develop between the two, but each played their role well during the more romantic parts of the show. Temkin brought her charm back with full force in her thoroughly funny performance of “I’m Not At All in Love” in the following scene. It was a clever, feminine number that ended with her well-timed crash into Sidell.
In Sid’s office, Mabel, whose warm and friendly personality was played expertly by Mancinelli, tried to teach the very jealous Hines about trusting Gladys. Mabel playfully provoked Hines through song, asking him what he would do if his lover came home “with her blouse unbuttoned and her stockings not very straight.”
“I would trust her!” was his bold reply. Bountouvas’ comical gestures made it obvious, however, that he would not. While both were exquisite as actors, neither of them was vocally up to par.
After Babe paid Sid a visit in his office, Sid made the first move. Again, Sidell and Temkin’s flat chemistry took away from what could have been a thoroughly adorable scene. Babe rejected his advances, hurrying off stage to let a saddened Sid sing another number. Sidell’s inability to carry off the notes was rather apparent on the night of the first performance, but Sidell managed his higher notes with more ease the following night.
Later on, at the company picnic, things heated up between Sid and Babe, who finally shared their much-anticipated first kiss. The kiss led straight into the song “Once a Year Day,” a jolly, exciting ensemble number full of movement and interesting choreography that was a joy to watch.
In the final scene of Act I, Prez (freshman Ian Outhwait), the factory’s labor leader, arranged a planned slowdown to fight for the workers’ much-needed raise. When an angry Sid entered and forced the workers to speed up, Babe defiantly opposed him. As the major turning point of the musical, it didn’t have the dramatic flair necessary to make it effective.
With the opening of Act II, the cast seemed energized and the show took a turn for the better. The audience was welcomed back by a group of factory women rallying for the raise. Prez made a brief speech that was followed by “Steam Heat,” a fun jazz number performed by Hassler, Mae (senior Molly Balsam) and Joe (senior Justy Kosek), accompanied by an energetic step dance.
Hines then took the stage with a humorous solo about living by the clock. The witty lyrics were delivered with personality by Bountouvas, and the chorus provided great backup. Sid then suggested a compromise to Hassler about the raise, but Hassler responded by claiming to be a “fighter.” Slade’s goofy kung-fu moves drew much laughter from the audience.
Sid and Gladys proceeded to perform a passionate tango dance that made one’s temperature rise as Gladys sang about the exotic “Hernando’s Hideaway,” where she planned to take Sid. This was the first scene that allowed Makwaia the opportunity to display her powerful and sultry vocals, which fit the song flawlessly.
The lights dimmed for the scene at Hernando’s Hideaway, which set a mood of mystery and scandal. The drunken Gladys made the scene unforgettable; Makwaia’s natural performance of Gladys’ hysterics was exquisite. Hines, known as a professional ‘knife-thrower,’ proceeded to hurl knives from the band pit. Sidell and Makwaia portrayed the drunken panic well, though Slade stole the show as he dove behind desks to avoid being killed by what he believed were “foreigners” and “Chicago gangsters.”
Sid finally convinced Hassler to give the needed raise, although Hassler first insisted on being a “fighter.” Sid entered and informed the workers about the approved raise, and after the exuberant chorus exited, Sid and Babe were left alone and entered into a charged reprise of “There Once Was a Man.”
Although the first act was a bit slow, the cast gained energy during the second act and ended the musical on a high note. The show was enhanced by the colorful costumes that propelled the audience back into the 1950s. It sure would have been hard to fall asleep, even if you were wearing your PJs.