Under the direction of possibly the most imaginative director working Off-Broadway today, Joe Tantalo, Godlight has blazed a unique trail by being both highly faithful to their source material while doing so with little more than piercing intelligence, and highly inventive lighting and sound design...The show is a revelation. Less a battle between cruel prison overseers and a free-spirited man refusing to be broken, this fiercely directed, intense play, with Maruti Evans providing powerful lighting design, becomes a battle between man and God.
Now that’s a test of ingenuity: How do you translate COOL HAND LUKE, which takes place on a Florida chain gang, to the stage with no set or props? This kind of challenge is catnip to Godlight...the physical setting is impressively rendered...Tantalo and his team are creating a recognizable signature style, which is more than can be said of many bigger, wealthier companies.
Once again, the staging is the star in this Godlight production...But the strong acting, and expert unique staging, will keep you chained to your seats.
The talented people at Godlight Theatre Company don’t merely adapt novels to the stage – they take a book, boil it down to its essence, and reimagine it in strikingly theatrical terms...director Joe Tantalo and his team have fashioned a savage tale of one man pitted against a brutal prison system...brilliantly stylized staging...this is the rare theatre company that contributes something indisputably unique to the New York theatre scene.
Director Joe Tantalo’s striking, minimalist production marvelously relies on purely theatrical imaginative devices. Mr. Tantalo’s accomplished, choreographic staging and the performances achieved often intense experiences...Lawrence Jansen is commanding as Luke, he creates a lively original characterization...Nick Paglino offers a powerfully chilling portrait of Southern authority as Boss Godfrey.
Godlight Theatre Company’s COOL HAND LUKE doesn’t pull any punches...adapter Emma Reeves remains truer to its source, touching the shadows of the crisis of faith that color it...director Joe Tantalo keeps the psyche big and the stage picture vivid...the less is more tack works.


Starting with a premise that sounds almost impossible to capture convincingly onstage—this production, directed by Joe Tantalo, compounds the challenge by allowing virtually no set or props. It succeeds with astonishing virtuosity, evoking every twist in the river and the plot as surely as if it were being performed on location…This is fundamentally a nightmare thriller, as taut and suggestive as a Daphne du Maurier short story.
It’s actually amazing how much pulse-quickening suspense ingenious director Joe Tantalo and his excellent cast create...‘Deliverance’ proves the power of ingenious stagecraft...But, as a lesson in the power of evocation — and in entrusting your audience to fill in the blanks — this “Deliverance” holds water.
James Dickey’s Deliverance, the latest foray into the unstageable-turned-credible for the award-winning Godlight Theatre Company, proves to further this Off Broadway troupe’s knack for challenging the boundaries of adaptation...Director Joe Tantalo and his superb crew of technicians, whose lighting and sound ingenuity is a show unto itself, keep Deliverance from ever threatening to capsize.
A smart, insightful production at 59E59 Theaters by channeling the book’s vast natural backdrop and big themes onto a small stage and focusing on the interior journeys of its characters...It’s an apt reminder of one of the themes that this creative production is driving at. By the end, we feel as though we’ve been on a strange trip, not through the vast wilderness but into a man’s heart of darkness — and perhaps our own.
Do not underestimate the talents of director Joe Tantalo and his colleagues at Godlight Theatre Company. The company specializes in adapting prose works to the stage and all involved have found a plausible and highly imaginative way of stylizing Dickey’s narrative. They prove that you don’t need to spill a drop of stage blood to spread terror in the theatre….Paglino’s performance generates an intensity that by itself is enough to keep our attention riveted…Tyler’s language is lean and taut as a tripwire; this is an exceptionally fine adaptation...this is a killer of a tale, offering 90 minutes of high anxiety.
A brilliantly harrowing stage adaptation...Godlight Theatre Company’s adaptation of Deliverance grabs the audience by the throat and never lets go till after the final curtain.
Forget ‘Dueling Banjos’ and ‘Squeal like a pig’, Godlight Theatre Company’s new stage adaptation of Deliverance stays extremely faithful to the sparse, brutal poetry of James Dickey’s original novel, allowing us to forget the iconic film adaptation…While much of the nail-biting action in Dickey’s novel takes place on the river itself, director Joe Tantalo’s production miraculously achieves the same tension using only a bare stage with suggestive light and sound cues. The acting is remarkable, particularly Nick Paglino as the narrator Ed, a man pushed to limits of survivalist humanity he had previously thought impossible...By using only the dialogue and narration found in the novel itself, the show succeeds in fully recreating Dickey’s haunting journey to the heart of darkness, within man and without.
James Dickey’s Deliverance, Godlight Theater Company’s world premier theatrical adaptation of Dickey’s 1970 novel, Deliverance, is a theatrical tour de force that will grab you from the moment you step into the theater and keep you in its grip well past the final bow. It is a brave, cohesive and adventurous piece of theatre, the likes rarely seen in New York, and one not to be missed…The expertise brought to the stage by every member of the company is all that this astonishing and disturbing production requires to suspend disbelief and take viewers on the journey of a lifetime.
The Godlight Theatre Company has mounted a most ingenious adaptation by Sean Tyler...this 90-minute, intermissionless dramatization packs a good deal of atmosphere, suspense, and excitement, as tautly paced by director Joe Tantalo...Such is the power of theater and good storytelling.
Expect to be chilled to the bone by this ever-insightful examination of what lurks in the pit of men’s soul...All of the actors are excellent...At times you’ll think you are actually seeing the woods, the river, a deer, but it’s just your mind getting caught up in this thrilling, unique theatrical experience.
Director Joe Tantalo and a seven actor ensemble make it gripping and often truly shocking...the piece is intensely suspenseful, sometimes crazily tense.
This unique production holds the audience captive with tension and challenge for 90 minutes...Because the realism of Deliverance cannot be duplicated on a stage, Sean Tyler’s translation based on James Dickey’s novel depends on audience imagination. It’s success owes much credit to production values, a skilled cast and the masterly direction of Joe Tantalo...It is worth seeing.
Godlight Theater Company, a troupe committed to bringing books to the stage, has given James Dickey’s 1970 novel, “Deliverance,” the theatrical treatment. Performed by seven actors on an intimate stage just 12 feet by 12 feet, it’s the kind of backwoods saga that will make you lavishly thankful for the comforts of concrete and taxis and takeout Chinese...Joe Tantalo directs it tautly.


Nick Paglino’s performance is brilliant…the entire ensemble is a powerful one…Lawrence Jansen as the Clown Leader is deliciously creepy…the real stunner is the incredible design, it creates a twisted circus and imposes a constant feeling of impending doom…THE PILO FAMILY CIRCUS does a good job of exploiting the thin line between pleasure and pain and the pleasant and the perverse.
Godlight Theatre Company goes for a wild run to the dark side…powerfully adapted by Matt Pelfrey…the play presents a fascinating look at the dark side of human nature and the monsters hidden deep in one’s soul…definitely not for the faint of heart.
Godlight has made a name for themselves with their book-to-stage adaptations and my hat is off to them…their version of PILO is a weird, wild ride, and there’s a lot of twisted joy to be had…Director Joe Tantalo shapes an impressively sparse, swirling underworld…those images, days later, still stick with me…it’s a trip to the circus I don’t regret.
Godlight Theatre Company’s PILO FAMILY CIRCUS is a frightening imaginatively conceived world that rings bizarrely true because of the richness of the vision...Nick Paglino gives a gritty performance.
The piece is directed with bravado by Joe Tantalo…there is so much talent and inventiveness in the actors and stage designers on stage at the New Ohio Theatre.
PILO FAMILY CIRCUS grabs the rubber chicken of your mind and shakes it like crazy. It’s conflicts mirror those of the real world. Freedom of enslavement? Redemption or damnation? Perhaps only the clowns know the answer.


Watching talented actors play ignorant, paranoid, homophobic, and self-righteous right-wingers angrily abusing a stuffed bear is so crazy it’s funny…Joe Tantalo’s high energy production, for Godlight Theatre Company, is precise and beautifully choreographed, and it successfully captures the absurd brutality of our times.
The play’s targets skew far and wide, with (real) reactionary politicians, a rapacious media and overzealous law-enforcement figures all getting a drubbing. Minnesota’s Tea Party Congresswoman Michele Bachmann proposes legislation banning teddy bears. Television news reporter Dan Abrams (Elliot Hill) narrates the tale in breathless tabloid style. And an FBI profiler determines that the 1-foot-tall bear is clearly suffering from a Napoleon complex…there are enough laughs here to make the evening worthwhile, and director Joe Tantalo’s energetic staging provides plenty of goofily absurdist touches — as when the entire ensemble breaks into “Happy Talk” from “South Pacific.” Best of all is Winkie, who — as voiced and manipulated by Paglino, the actor playing Clifford — seems like a living, breathing teddy bear. His solo curtain call is well deserved.
Godlight Theatre Company offers up a fascinating world premiere comedy…Direction by Joe Tantalo is spot-on, allowing the actors to milk their characterizations for maximum effect. Tantalo also expertly guides the pacing of the play and performances as the work continually switches gears from the more rousing or tabloid moments to scenes of quiet introspection.
There’s pleasure to be had along the way…Director Joe Tantalo’s staging is lively and clever…Elizabeth Rhodes’ sound design is terrific, as is Maruti Evans’ lighting, with Winkie on trial in a dramatic center spotlight….Winkie is played by an actual teddy bear, but Nick Paglino, as Chase, also voices him excellently and manipulates him expertly…Adam Kee, as Winkie’s hapless attorney, is in hilarious early–Gene Wilder mode, stuttering and miserable in a rumpled suit and an awful tie…Geraldine Johns is touching as Winkie’s nurse and protector, and Rick Sordelet has staged some bracingly intricate stage fights.
Under Joe Tantalo’s sharp direction, Godlight Theatre Company’s peppy production gets a lot of mileage from its narrative frame—one of those hour-long MSNBC ‘investigative’ reports on the incident. Elliot Hill portrays the special’s breathless British host with a pitch-perfect ear for our fatuous broadcast media, stepping in and out of the shadows to comment with appropriately hilarious pomposity…The turning point, however, falls later, when Winkie decides to break his stoic silence and tell his story. (Nick Paglino, who doubles as Winkie’s distraught owner, puppeteers and voices the role suggestively.) The teddy’s fantastical monologue steers the play into a much needed new dimension—ursine allegory, perhaps?—with surprising emotional power. At last, the piece seems to channel all those animal emblems from modern literature— Kafka’s cockroach, Bulgakov’s black cat—as it makes a refreshing dip into the absurd.
Joe Tantalo and his collaborators at Godlight Theatre Company have done a spectacular job realizing a complex script in the tiny 59E59 Theatre C space, with a minimalist set (by Maruti Evans, also responsible for the excellent lighting design) and evocative sound (Elizabeth Rhodes; music by Andrew Recinos). Perhaps the most invaluable aspect of the design is the teddy bear that ‘plays’ Winkie, which has a soulful, anonymous quality that will remind you, probably, of a toy from your own childhood. Winkie is voiced and manipulated by Nick Paglino, who also plays Clifford Chase; his performance is splendid and utterly central to the piece. Eight other actors play all of the many other characters in the play, with particular standouts being Erin Wheelock in a variety of roles, comic and tender, and Geraldine Johns as a nurse who befriends Winkie and is his only real friend during his struggle for freedom…if we’re too jaded to be jolted by the heightened reality presented here, we may have to look inside ourselves for the reason. We also need to listen hard to what Winkie and his former owner/alter ego Clifford Chase are trying to tell us.
The story quickly goes from amusingly eccentric to downright bizarre. Winkie is charged with 9,678 outlandish counts, including, not only terrorism and treason, but ‘impersonating a woman,’ ‘corrupting the youth of Athens,’ and ‘teaching evolution in the schools’…Nick Paglino, as both Chase and Winkie, and Geraldine Johns, as Francoise, bring a grounding element of emotional realism to the otherwise chaotic and absurd proceedings…the energetic cast and Joe Tantalo’s crisp direction keep the 90-minute play moving.
Thrillingly inventive and deeply moving to watch…Nick Paglino portrays both Winkie (giving voice and movement to the teddy bear that he holds in his hands) and Clifford, the man who owned Winkie as a child. Paglino gets at both the serious and intimately emotional core of the story through both characters…when the bear takes the witness stand in his own defense, Winkie finally gets a chance to tell his story to the world, and in Paglino’s hands, the soliloquy is brilliant…the audience sits in hushed awe, believing.
The result is an intriguing commentary on the way the media conspires with reactionary voices to shape the discourse of terrorism in this post-9/11 world.
The Godlight Theatre Company scored a winner with Clifford Chase’s Winkie.
Playwright Matt Pelfrey cleverly constructs an irresistible, profound and inspirational adaptation that offers a stellar translation to Clifford Chase’s novel for members of the audience unfamiliar with the book...The 2011 theatre season is still unfolding, but this production is the best show I have seen so far.


The always excellent Godlight Theatre Company has another winner with Matt Pelfrey’s stark and powerful adaptation…Working on a bare stage, Director Joe Tantalo (whose efforts here are sheer perfection) and the Godlight actors brilliantly recreate the atmosphere of the time and place depicted…a show not to be missed.
Engaging the audience’s imagination, Director Joe Tantalo is able to create the theatrical equivalent of a novelist’s easy reach through time and space…Matt Pelfrey’s muscular adaptation establishes John Ball’s novel as a pop classic that, like a great 60s rock song, is both true to its times and perennially open to fresh interpretations.
In the Heat of the Night is a clever whodunit...some terrific twists...director Joe Tantalo uses the space well...the production allows for nuanced performances. Nick Paglino is especially good; so is Ryan O’Callaghan...Sean Phillips is solid...Heat has some strong moments...nicely lit by Maruti Evans. The story is worth telling.
I am so glad to have seen it. The play is taut and startlingly resonant...Pelfrey’s work is economical and uncompromising. The direction, by indie theater wizard
Joe Tantalo, is spare and jolting and brilliant...This rendition of In the Heat of the Night is suspenseful, thrilling, and stunningly theatrical...The cast of ten is exemplary...And if, like me, you’re new to this powerful tale, here’s a great opportunity to take it in and to enjoy the signal talents of Godlight Theatre, here doing work that ranks with their very finest.
In the Heat of the Night, John Ball’s 1965 exploration of interracial strife in Alabama, proves still topical in Matt Pelfrey’s succinct stage adaptation, now being presented by Godlight Theatre Company at 59E59 Theaters. Better still, in director Joe Tantalo’s sure hands, the result is a tight — and timely — little thriller...Sean Phillips, giving a performance of admirable restraint and polish...Providing perfect counterpoint is Gregory Konow as Gillespie, the beer-bellied, balding police chief — a banally evil good ole boy who comes to accord Tibbs a grudging respect. As his deputies, Nick Paglino and Sam Whitten are equally skilled and thoroughly convincing in their roles. Ryan O’Callaghan is terrific as a sequential pair of young bigots.
In The Heat of the Night is now being ingeniously reinterpreted on a live stage for the first time ever...Most of all it’s eminently stageworthy — especially as mounted by Tantalo with a cast of ten actors playing almost twice as many characters...The result is a tense and exciting story that follows the book’s basic plot but offers viewers a distinctly new and different In the Heat of the Night...this familiar yet fresh take on a novel best known for its film and TV spinoffs is one of the best theater buys in town.
The Godlight Theater Company has made a specialty of intriguing literary adaptations...The stylized proceedings feature theatrical flourishes...Phillips and Konow are strong in the central roles...Director Joe Tantalo lays the sultry atmosphere on thick. Before the play begins, a scantily clad young woman writhes suggestively in the central playing area surrounded by the audience on four sides — a creepy, voyeuristic touch.