Equity, the stage performers' union, published a report showing that the heartbeat of an actor delivering a monologue spikes to the same level as a pilot landing an airplane. So heaven knows the stratospheric heights hit by the pulse of Daniel Beaty as the lights come up on Through the Night, now at City Theatre.
He's not just an actor in the show; he's the sole actor playing six major and several minor characters. But if that isn't enough, he also wrote the play. And, oh yeah, he's directing it as well.
But the really big news is that he carries off each duty with such incredible skill.
Beaty plays six men whose lives are driving swiftly to a breaking point, and I must congratulate him for plotting out those individual journeys so well. Each story moves at its own appropriate pace, yet Beaty brings them all to dramatic eruption at the same time. Trust me, it's not nearly as easy as it sounds.
His focus is, not surprisingly, on the father/son dynamic. Each of the men is combing through the emotional legacy left by his dad, and/or creating a new one for his son. I don't want to give away any of the surprises, but each is connected to the other, and how they interact, or don't, gives Through the Night a lot of its rich texture.
I should mention something else (and I know this says way more about me than Beaty): He is an unabashedly sentimental writer. At times he lays it on pretty thick, and to tell you the truth, my toes were curling now and then. But judging from the enthralled audience around me, this is surely due to the fact that I'm a cranky bitch.
And speaking of enthralling — when he's not being a playwright of protean ability, he's an actor of solid talent. Each of the men is immediately recognizable, thanks to Beaty's ability to create distinct, and distinctly human, characters. This is a vivid example of what happens when a strong actor uses his know-how to bring life to the work of a strong writer: Everyone, including the audience, wins.