Luke Macfarlane steps into role of volatile singer in City’s ‘Sam Bendrix’
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Thursday, November 17, 2011
By Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Imagine you are seated in a smoky cafe in 1950s New York, ready for a night of same-old, same-old as a young man and three-piece band perform a cabaret act of popular music. The city outside bustles to a cultural sea change that’s exploding artistic norms.

If you’ve arrived at the scene, you have found your way to the other side of the time tunnel where performer Luke Macfarlane and writer Keith Bunin hope to lead audiences experiencing “Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir,” a world premiere at City Theatre’s intimate Lester Hamburg theater.

The one-man show includes music by Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and the Gershwins within the structure of a cabaret act that turns out to be a confessional by Sam. He is saying goodbye to New York, where he had come from a small town, like so many others, and things hadn’t turned out quite as he planned.

Sitting in a Starbucks on the South Side on a spring-like day a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Macfarlane and Mr. Bunin discussed the collaboration that has brought this project to City. “Sam Bendrix” strives to generate the feeling of a time and place while incorporating some of the lesser-known songs by big-name composers of the era. And it’s about what it meant to be gay in 1958, when the play is set.

“If you were from a small town in the middle of the country you might not know any other people like you, and it led to a sort of influx into the cities and it created this New York City life that really was unprecedented,” Mr. Bunin said. “We were also interested in the ways things were very open and very coded, and the incredible things that were going on artistically. Like the Beat generation, the modernist painters … Jackson Pollock, Frank O’Hara, ‘West Side Story,’ … Jack Keroauc, Allen Ginsberg …”

“It’s so interesting to really look at this history and you say, ‘Oh my God, these things were happening at the exact same time.’ It’s shocking,” Mr. Macfarlane said.
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