SAFE - NY Production

SAFE - NY Production

          Published by Samuel French. This stageplay thriller, written by Tony Glazer and Anthony Ruivivar (star of NBC'S THIRD WATCH), premiered at The Jose Quintero Theatre on 42nd street in June of 2003. Due to its immense popularity, SAFE extended its run for additional weeks in July. Directed by Anthony Ruivivar, SAFE co-starred Tony Award Winner Carlin Glynn, Jason Wiles and Coby Bell (also of THIRD WATCH) and Yvonne Jung. Presented by the Imua Theatre Company.


A Robbery That's Light on Gravitas


The New York Times, June 21, 2003

Drat those cellphones. They've killed off one of the oldest literary gimmicks, the "strand people on a lifeboat or mountainside and watch them consume one another" plot line. Or have they?

The attempt to call for help with cellphones is one of many outlandishly amusing moments in "Safe," a new play that finds five people stuck in a bank safe during a robbery. Two of the five are packing phones, probably the national average. The outcome? No rescue, but a wry sendup of a certain ubiquitous television commercial.

Not that "Safe" is a comedy. Rather, it's a drama that doesn't take itself very seriously, and thus is a guilty pleasure. You know you're watching a lightweight work built on a hoary, unbelievable premise, but you don't care because it's so entertaining.

That is largely because the cast finds a nice comfort zone, one situated in a land called Over-the-Top. It wasn't hard to find, probably, because several of the principals have worked together a lot, on the NBC drama "Third Watch": Jason Wiles is the obligatory crazed member of the stranded quintet; Coby Bell is the character he clashes with; and Anthony Ruivivar, an actor on "Third Watch," makes his directorial debut here.

Mr. Ruivivar also wrote the play, with Tony Glazer. Their script seems unpolished but the actors make the most of what's there, with Mr. Wiles doing some spectacular foaming at the mouth. Yvonne Jung is very funny as a ditsy young teller, Carlin Glynn is the just-stay-calm bank manager, and Henry Afro-Bradley is suitably dazed as a security guard who has been whacked over the head.

The surprise ending is as unabashedly unconvincing as what has come before, but for the $15 ticket price you'll be in a forgiving mood. The claustrophobic José Quintero Theater, at 534 West 42nd Street, is perfect for the play, making you feel as if you're in the safe, too. "Safe" runs through June 28.

SAFE: A Review by Elias Stimac

BACKSTAGE, June 23, 2003

"Safe" plays it anything but. This slick and edgy play by Tony Glazer and Anthony Ruivivar starts with chaos in the darkness and doesn't let up until its illuminating finale. Accusations, insinuations, physical force, and mental abuse swirl together in a maelstrom that challenges the civility and humanity of a random group of people.

The stainless-steel set design by Antje Ellermann, intricately lit by Shawn K. Kaufman, raises expectations immediately. The play takes place entirely in a bank vault, and the environment is both impressive and oppressive. Mark Bruckner's sound effects set up the scene -- two gunmen are forcing a handful of bank employees and customers into the safe amid screams and shouts of protest. One by one, the pressures of danger and possible death -- inside and outside the vault -- test the breaking point of innocent people caught in extraordinary circumstances.

Glazer and Ruivivar have crafted a riveting piece of drama, sprinkled liberally with comedic confrontations and maddening mind games. Ruivivar also convincingly stages the action, using the claustrophobic conditions to heighten the tension among the five unwitting hostages.

The ensemble members are fully rooted in reality, and each suspicious gesture and nervous tic speaks volumes in the confined quarters. Carlin Glynn is pensive and practical as the bank manager, while Yvonne Jung comically loses her cool every few seconds as a harried teller. Coby Bell makes the most of the mild-mannered customer who is pushed to the limit, and Henry Afro-Bradley is credibly cranky as a muddled security guard. Jason Wiles has the meatiest role as the most outspoken member of the group, taking charge and talking down to the others, but even his character elicits a level of concern by the end.

In addition to the technical contributions listed above, the costumes by Estee Stanley are both character-defining and comfortable.

SAFE: A Review by Matt Windman, June 17, 2003

About ten minutes into the second act of Safe, a loud noise suddenly spread throughout the theater. Yet, for some reason, the actors did not pay attention to this disturbance. They did, however, look very confused. Suddenly, an usher ran to the front of the stage and informed everyone that the smoke detector had been set off and everyone had to vacate the theater immediately. However, despite the fact that this two-hour show ended at 11pm instead of 10pm at this press preview, the audience attending this Off-Broadway production of the Imua! Theatre Company stayed into the night to learn the fate of the main characters, all of whom are in a state of grave danger in the show.

As an amusing, intimate, and comical piece, Safe has the makings of an Off-Broadway success and regional theater hit. The comedy features five New Yorkers trapped in a bank safe after the bank is robbed by a pack of thieves. At the opening of the show, in the midst of a blackout and loud techno music, we hear the voice of a robber forcing our characters into the safe. What immediately follows is a discussion about what the robbers want and how they can get out of their current dilemma. Because it just happens to be Saturday, it is unknown whether or not anyone is actually aware that the bank has been robbed. As the show goes on, the drama increases as the characters become more violent and wary of their situation. However, Tony Glazer and Anthony Ruivivar's text never loses its comic sensibility, keeping the audience both engaged and cheerful.

The show's vault situation is utilized for a character study about what happens when five very different people (consider factors such as economics, age, sexuality and intelligence) are forced into a life-or-death situation. The relationships that grow between the characters are pivotal to the intensifying drama of the piece. Each of them is very, very stereotypical and dressed accordingly. The best way to describe the show would be to illustrate the characters:

1. Truss (Jason Wiles), who might be described as the psycho of the clan. He attempts to take command by insisting that he become the group's leader (there's even a voting procedure). He also takes it upon himself to strangle other characters that seem disobedient, destroy the group's only cell phone by stomping violently on it, and steal a gun from the security guard. He even convinces his comrades at one point that the best option for the group would be to light the safe on fire in an attempt to gain attention. Interestingly, Wiles also has a very noticeable mustache for the show (maybe to mirror another dictator?).

2. Oakley (Henry Afro-Bradley), the bank's old, senile security guard who is said to have fallen asleep on the job (perhaps leading to the present robbery). He also suffered a major head injury during the incident, as shown by blood gushing all over his forehead. Why is his name Oakley? Well, it gives Truss the opportunity to accidentally call him Oakland.

3. Feliz (Carlin Glynn), the bank's manager who just happened to forget to turn on the police alarm after the robbers bombarded the bank. Unlike the others, she does not have big dramatic moments, nor does she ever become the center of conflict. She remains hopeful that her husband will notice that she has not come home for dinner.

4. Sabina (Yvonne Jung), the young, attractive, and very dumb bank clerk. However, it is she who eventually saves the day by pointing out something about their situation that no on else has bothered to notice. Interestingly, as everyone else becomes more violent and dramatic, she just keeps taking off more and more clothing until there is nothing left but a white undershirt and a lot of cleavage.

5. Ryan (Coby Bell), the male youngster of the group. With a sweater jacket and a crew cut, he is there to represent the upper-middle class, philosophy-driven college student. At one point he discusses his special condition known as animatronic-phobia. "I am convinced that I will die at the hands of some kind of puppet." As the drama continues, he tends to act increasingly gay. Because he is the most obvious threat to Truss's power, he is hand-cuffed to a pole for the entire second act.

The text feels like a no-holds-barred version of Reginald Rose's classic 12 Angry Men. Here we have a text that places its characters in an inescapable, life-changing situation used to reveal their true and very primitive identities. However, unlike 12 Angry Men, we have interaction between both men and women. And, most importantly, there is no threat from outside order, allowing verbal abuse, physical abuse, and even murder to occur. With a five-character setup and a surprise ending, Safe has the feel of an old-fashioned murder mystery. Drama, laughs, and violence with a hidden emphasis on political corruption and group psychology can make quite an enjoyable evening.

SAFE: A Review by Laurie Lawson, June 6, 2003

SAFE, a new play by Tony Glazer and Anthony Ruivivar, is a dark comedy that is going to keep you captivated from beginning to end. The entire action takes place inside a bank vault where robbers have herded five mismatched victims/hostages. The characters are thoroughly delightful and wacky with enough neuroses, obsessions, delusions, and fantasies to keep their small prison alive and vibrant. Their conflicts and bickering, along with their manipulations and compliances, allow them to bond and "unbond" highlighting the sophisticated wit and sarcasm of this work. The stellar performances of the cast breathe believability into personalities that have crossed the line from socially functional to panicked paranoia. In addition to playwright/director Ruivivar, "Third Watch" fans will be excited by appearances of the TV series regulars Jason Wiles and Coby Bell. Tony-Award winner Carlin Glynn is the voice of reason amidst the chaos, and Henry Afro-Bradley and Yvonne Jung provide plenty of whole-hearted chuckles.

If you're looking for an evening of entertainment that includes a cleverly polished play, jam-packed with stars and perfectly directed, SAFE is a safe bet.

SAFE: A Review by Ethan Kellerd

More and more, television actors are spending their summertime hiatuses back in New York, reconnecting with their theater roots. Sometimes the players are high profile (like Benjamin Bratt and Julianna Margulies in MCC Theater's 'Intrigue with Faye'), but very often it's a quiet thing. You can put 'Safe,' produced by the Imua! Theatre Company, among the latter. Co-written by 'Third Watch' star Anthony Ruivivar and Imua! member artist Tony Glazer, two of Ruivivar's small-screen cohorts, Jason Wiles (pictured left) and Coby Bell, star in the play. The piece itself is a recycling of an old plot scheme -- meet five people stuck in a bank safe after a robbery goes awry -- but it's the way the authors smartly explore the inner life of the characters that provides depth and catharsis. The production also stars Tony Award-winner Carlin Glynn, Henry Afro-Bradley (pictured right) and Yvonne Jung, all under Ruivivar's direction -- his first time for the stage.