Stage Stars Marin Ireland and Paul Sparks Shine in Offbeat Sparrows Dance
By: Ellis Nassour
Tony nominee Marin Ireland (TV’s smash Homeland) and five-time Drama Desk nominee Paul Sparks (a co-star of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) are a winning combination with great chemistry in writer/director Noah Buschel’s offbeat intimate indie Sparrows Dance (Tribeca FIlm), which was shot last year with a budget under $180,000.
In the film, which is a perfect date-night pick, Ireland, a former actress, is saved by the plumber. Sounds like it could be shades of Tracey Letts. Well, maybe after six degrees of separation.
Now crippled by fear of the outside world, living off delivery food and residuals from her career, this unnamed she spends days watching bad TV, huffing while riding her exercise bike, and spying on the city she won’t let in from a window. Fate intervenes in the form of an overflowing – well, how about you guess what!
The man with the plunger shows up. Is this not the most original plot for a film in a longgggg time? However, don’t let this description turn you off. The script’s a bit thin, but there’s so much dialogue written beneath the silence. Ireland and Sparks add, well, the sparks; and the movie glows, especially after the first half hour when he comes to the rescue.
Since she panics at making even the most mundane human contact – not even opening the door for her food deliveries (she pushes money under the door, he leaves the bag), she’s reluctant to allow her white knight entry. But things are spinning out of her control. There’s little choice. She checks him out through the peep hole, unlocks the door. Iit squeaks open, and off to the bath room he goes
It doesn’t hurt that he’s Paul Sparks and, of course, you can guess what happens? Spoiler! They fall in love, of course! But things have to change. Getting her out the door and into the real world isn’t as easy as plugging a leak.
Ireland and Sparks, who’ve had raves heaped on their performances on the festival circuit, are adept playing quirky roles where they’re not your average Jane/Joe. They’re in the hands of a gifted writer/director; and, in an intensely romantic/erotic dance sequence, bathed in dreamy solitude by cinematographer Ryan Samui.
Sparrows Dance is never static and, since there’s plenty of angst and drama, doesn’t run out of steam. One critic has called it "one of the smallest films of the year and one of the best." If you’re tired of 3-D blockbusters and history epics, and just want a little romance, grab a Coke and bucket of popcorn. This one’s for you.
Ireland, nominated for a Tony for the Reasons to Be Pretty,was most recently onstage opposite Bobby Cannavale in Roundabout’s revival of The Big Knife. She made an impact in the totally unabridged TV mini-series adaptation of James Cain’s classic novel Mildred Pierce, then alternated between film and TV. She was seen to great advantage in the slightly naughty Hope Springs opposite Meryl Streep and Tommie Lee Jones.
Sparks, an Off Broadway vet and long-considered an actor’s actor, made his Broadway debut in 2003 in Take Me Out, after being an original cast member Off Broadway at the Public. He later acquitted himself nicely as Ejlert in the rather badly-received 2009 revival of Hedda Gabler opposite Mary-Louise Parker. His star rose very high when cast as con Mickey Doyle in the hit series Boardwalk Empire. Now, he’s now in demand for the big, as well as the little screen.
Currently co-starring opposite Matthew McConaughey in Mud and soon to be seen opposite Zac Efron and Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden in the film that’s already getting lots of end-of-the-year buzz, Parkland, about the crisis of events surrounding the Dallas hospital ER the day of JFK’s assassination, let’s hope Sparks returns to the stage soon.
[Sparrows Dance is also available On Demand.]