Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Some people hear voices when no one is there. In April 1972, I saw Voices. The play ran for only eight performances at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. It was poorly reviewed but I enjoyed it.

The primary characters are a troubled couple caught in an old dark house trapped by a snowstorm. They hear voices, a ball bounces down a stairway, and ghosts may or may not be in attendance. I recall a plot twist at play’s end indicating that the two are actually the ghosts, having been killed in an automobile accident prior to their appearance at the house. Modern day summaries on theatre websites indicate otherwise.

Voices featured Julie Harris, a national treasure, and Richard Kiley some seven years after his success in jousting at Broadway windmills.

As to Julie Harris, I was enthralled. I could watch her play cards for three hours -- which I did some 25 years later in the Broadway revival of The Gin Game. As to Richard Kiley, windmills to the contrary notwithstanding, I carried a grudge. I could never, ever, forgive him for killing Moe in Pickup on South Street. Being a communist? Yes. Killing Moe? No.

But there is an epilogue to this story of Voices. One Miss Lisa Essary appeared as a child in the play. She was the stepdaughter of Mafia gangster Joey Gallo. After the April 6 performance, a Gallo entourage collected Lisa at the theatre, celebrated at the Copacabana, and in the wee hours of morning, went to Umberto’s Clam House for a repast. They were joined after a while by a group of assassins from a rival Mafia gang with weapons drawn. Some twenty shots were fired, and Joey Gallo’s life and celebrity ended under a restaurant table. It is said that revenge is a dish best served cold.

Young Lisa Essary and her newly widowed mother survived. It was the morning of April 7. After the April 8 performance, Voices closed. As far as I know, the play’s demise was not related to that of Mr. Gallo’s.

Voices. Voices and ghosts. Some from a stage, some from a restaurant in Little Italy, all from long ago.

Julie is at Cape Cod these days, but Richard Kiley died in 1999. Ms. Lisa Essary is a successful casting director.

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