'Secrets of the Trade' Asks a Lot, But Doesn't Tell Much

Primary Stages mounts Jonathan Tolins's new theater-centric play

His verbal skills, fortunately, keep mitigating one's cumulative frustration. Even at their most factitious, his characters find pungent, pointed things to say. The gifted actors Shakman has assembled, whom he moves about with speed and dexterity, don't overlook the faintest turn of a syllable: Bill Brochtrup, as Kerner's downtrodden assistant, builds a full tragicomic portrait from a few scraps of dialogue; Robbins brings range and authenticity to his extremely sketchy role; Aquino serves a hearty plateful of pained vulnerability, spiced with freshly ground asperity, which Nelson decorates, contrapuntally, with sly, flavorsome twists of rue. Best of all, there's Glover, seizing every opportunity in a role that travels from aristocratic hauteur to falling-down drunkenness, the latter charged with such inventive body English that I now want to see this invaluable actor in a dance role.

Backstage Broadway bait-and-switch: John Glover, Bill Brochtrup, Amy Aquino, and Noah Robbins
James Leynse
Backstage Broadway bait-and-switch: John Glover, Bill Brochtrup, Amy Aquino, and Noah Robbins

mfeingold@villagevoice.com

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