SARATOGA SPRINGS: Memories make a play

Playwright Warren Leight's father was a traveling musician, and he relied on those memories to write the Tony Award-winning play, Side Man. Now almost 10 years after the play's release, the Home Made Theater is performing the play at the Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs.

The play focuses on a young man's memories of his childhood as the son of a jazz musician. The "memory play" features a number of flashbacks and narrations by the main character, Clifford, who is played by Peter Burleigh.

"This script was very well written and there was very little that I couldn't get that wasn't written into the script as far as character motivations," Burleigh said. "Anger isn't that hard to do."

Clifford's father, Gene, is a dedicated musician, and his mother, Terry, is an alcoholic. Set between Clifford's childhood in the 1960s and his life as a young adult in the 1980s, the play follows the rise and decline of jazz music.

"His writing of this show is almost jazz in a way in that it's not told in a strict chronology," Burleigh said. "There are so many jumps back and forth between time, and there's just a looseness to the telling that is very similar to jazz."

Director Steve Coats has worked with Burleigh on five shows.

"He had a natural gift for comedy and he was very flexible and willing to try new ideas. He's just an all-around great guy," Coats said. "His personality is one of great openness for the character, and that's kind of crucial."

Coats said the play is fast-moving and cinematic.

"It's a very fluid approach to the idea of time and memory," he said. "Because the play is essentially taking place in Clifford's memory, the audience is left to the vagaries of how his mind works."

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