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Queens’ ‘Uncle Nicky’ looking for second act

Martin Alvin is a work in progress. Some might call him the original Dark Knight, some might say he's a colorful character, but those of us who have known him for a number of years realize that he's one of a kind. To be in his company is most definitely a memorable experience.

A few Saturdays ago I found myself in Maspeth at the home of Roxanne Alese, a woman of many virtues, ups and downs, trials and tribulations. (That's for another column, but I can tell you now, she's a gem.) The occasion was the reading of Marty's play, "The Other Uncle Nicky," a play he first started writing in 1992. It's been produced a few times and revised a lot since then, and now it's ready to be heard once again.

Gathered around the living room were Mary Lynch, Robert Pannullo, Jesse Perez, Hannah Thompson, Roxanne, Marty and me. We read the play, complete with stage directions, acted it sort of, and gave ourselves some applause at the end. It was pretty good.

Under its original title of "Uncle Nicky," written and directed under the pseudonym of H.M. Bartleby, the play was well-received — "it caused quite a stir," says Marty — and one reviewer, who called it "smart, funny and engrossing," threw in comparisons to David Mamet, Anton Chekhov and Tennesee Williams. In 2001 the play received an award from the prestigious Off Off Broadway Review.

Marty comes from East New York in Brooklyn, but married and raised a family — son David and daughter Rebecca — in Fresh Meadows. After a successful trucking career, he graduated from Queens College with a B.A. in English, got a bunch of writing honors and then decided that he was an actor. He's been in a few movies, on TV in "One Life to Live," and has performed in more than 30 plays on stage.

Although these days he's more concerned about paying the rent, he keeps his writing skills sharp with a monthly column of personal essays and fiction for GC Magazine, widely distributed at many of the well-known clubs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas.

But it all comes back to "Uncle Nicky." At first Marty wrote it "simply to provide myself with acting work" — he was turning down roles that weren't any good. Over the years, however, the play developed a following, and Marty developed a very real and special kinship with his characters. "I enjoy their company," he says. "I like learning more about them because, as I do, I get to learn more about myself."

And as the actor playing Uncle Nicky — an angry, humorous war veteran and ex-con who operates a dingy bar in Queens — Marty was reviewed as "successfully capturing the complexity of a man with a disturbed psyche capable of both love and destruction." So I guess the lesson for you actors out there is: If you want a good role, write it yourself. Now all Marty needs is some financial backing to get his play produced one more time.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

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