Another tour-de-force performance is handed in by David Zayas as Edwin, one of the many mourners who was profoundly influenced by Sister Rose. The actor's facial expressions are priceless, particularly in the Act I scene in which Edwin meets Sister Rose's niece, Marcia (Elizabeth Canavan). He also captures the conflicted emotions of anger and love towards his mentally damaged brother, Pinky (Al Roffe). It turns out that Edwin blames himself for his brother's condition (as a child, he threw a brick out the window and it landed on Pinky's head) and is attempting a kind of penance through self-abnegation.
Many of the characters go to great lengths to communicate and even empathize with each other but, somehow, end up much more concerned about themselves than the people to whom they're reaching out. A brilliant example of this is when Marcia tries to comfort Edwin after an emotional blow-out with his brother. The two flirt with the possibility of a relationship, but Edwin pulls away out of loyalty and responsibility towards Pinky, and a frustrated Marcia cries out: "Well what good does that do me?!"
There are several screaming matches in Our Lady of 121st Street and yet they never seem forced or excessive, thanks to Hoffman's tight direction and relentless pacing; every single shout is motivated and helps to build dramatic tension. Hoffman is equally adept at controlling the pauses and prolonged moments of silent action that allow for the emotional shifts occurring in the characters.
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