‘Rebel’ Stays True To Form

One of the centerposts of popular culture in the mid-1950s was the film ”Rebel Without a Cause.” The film was the most successful of the three made by screen legend James Dean, before his death in an auto accident.

Now the plot of the film, which was written by Nicholas Ray, has been made into a stage play by Irving Shulman, and the play is being performed in Jamestown, at the Willow Bay Theater. The production opened Friday, and will be repeated tonight and next Friday and Saturday.

The company has cast the play very well. Every character is physically appropriate to the character he or she is performing. The play’s direction, by Logan Beard, is a bit slow, especially in the length of time the theater is in the dark, while scenes are being changed, but the stage picture is effective and the characters move through their arcs believably and realistically.

The play is the story of the first generation to follow World War II. The population decided that the rise of the Nazis had demonstrated once and for all that authority and power led the world down a primrose path, so they resolved to lead a life in which everything was conditional. There were no rules. The result was a generation who had to learn the lessons of life for themselves, while their parents made suggestions and ran away from any conflict. The result was a generation of rebels, with nothing to rebel against – rebels without a cause.

The leading actor is Vince Liuzzo, portraying Jim Stark, the character made famous by James Dean. Basically a good person, Jim feels compelled to play the tough guy, yet often yields to his instinct to be a nice guy, often confusing and doing harm to others without meaning to do so.

Shannon Nixon was lovely and focused as Judy, the girl who seeks a life model among her own age group because the adults in her life refuse to play that role. This is the character associated with actor Natalie Wood. Lars Benson played the Sal Mineo role of Plato, the bullied young boy so desperate for anyone’s attention that he wants his friend Jim to be a father to him.

Russell Lee was good as a youth counselor, and John Beard and Marge Fiore were quite believable as Jim’s parents.

The production is co-sponsored by Hatikvah Ministries and Masked Productions, with the intent of serving as a discussion point for families in today’s more violent and dysfunctional society. Willow Bay Theater is on the fourth floor of the building at the corner of Third and Pine streets.