Ensemble cast shines in ‘North Shore Fish’ on Gloucester Stage

GLOUCESTER – Israel Horovitz?s “North Shore Fish” is a great fast-moving comedy-drama about an intense single day at a fish processing plant – but it?s also an actor?s play and the ensemble cast of this summer?s Gloucester Stage production revel in the chance to prove it.The play deals with lost jobs and the anger of outraged working people. It is as topical today as it was in its 1986 debut at Gloucester Stage but for Horovitz the issues aren?t economic – he?s dealing with love and dignity, emotional needs and eternal truths. In the end all the characters have been as kind as they know how to be and they still can?t change their situation.Thomas Phillip O?Neill?s janitor, “Porker,” and Aimee Doherty?s Florence are the framing devices for the story, which begins with the lonely janitor sweeping the floor and singing “Strangers in the Night” and ends with him no longer lonely.Their story puts them at odds with Lowell Byers? flashy, bullying plant manager Sal every step of the way – and Sal?s control of the situation begins to fail as soon as Therese Plaehn?s state inspector Catherine Shimma arrives. Even when Florence, Sal and Catherine are relegated to the offices at the rear of Jenna McFarland?s magnificently rundown set they have lines and action.Traditional reviewers would call the other women employees the supporting cast, but in Horovitz?s play they all have a chance to shine like stars. First among equals, with Gloucester Stage and Boston theater veteran Nancy E. Carroll as Arlyne, whose religious rigidity commands respect from all the characters, even Sal.Swampscott?s Brianne Beatrice plays Ruthie Flynn, Arlyne?s pregnant daughter – her baby arrives as dramatically as possible. Marblehead?s Esme Allen is Marlena, the gum-chewing new girl at the plant. Erin Brehm is Maureen, Marlena?s protective cousin.Marianna Armitstead is Josie, a longtime employee with a secret. Director Robert Walsh keeps all the lines and the action moving so fast the play seems much shorter than its running time.The audience did not respond to a play – they were watching a part of a real world, and they loved it.North Shore Fish runs from July 18 through Aug. 4 at Gloucester Stage, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Ticket prices are $40 for all performances. Senior citizen and student tickets are $35 for all performances. For reservations or further information, call the Gloucester Stage Box Office at 978-281-4433 or visit www.gloucesterstage.com.

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