note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi
Demeter … Melinda Lopez
Giuseppe, and others … Seth Fisher
Celia, and others … Mimi Lieber
Alfonso, and others … Jeremiah Kissel
The most moving image you may see this year could well be the simple act of standing up in Noah Haidle’s PERSEPHONE, premiering at the BCA, and I’ll not reveal the context for fear of robbing you of its impact. Mr. Haidle’s comedy is in two acts with 500 years between them: in Act One’s sixteenth-century Florence, a statue of Demeter, earth goddess and mother of Persephone, awaits completion; while waiting, it comments on its beloved sculptor, his model-mistress and his patron and discusses Art with a household mouse. In Act Two, set in today’s Central Park, the statue --- now minus its arms --- watches New Yorkers coming and going as it waits for the winter to pass into spring (paralleling the Demeter-Persephone myth). That moving moment of which I hint comes in Act Two but first you must get through Act One which, despite its Renaissance setting, draws its humor from modern-day chatter, slang and obscenities --- even the statue gets a chance to be foul-mouthed --- it makes for easily cute but surface-thin fare (so take out the cell phones, already!). Act Two deepens as the statue reflects and observes in its loneliness, though New Yorkers might take offense at their park still being depicted as the land of druggies, whores, rapists and weirdos, and Mr. Haidle goes one step too far in his park-violence to hammer home what a skuzzy world this is --- but do come back after Intermission and you will be moved, with Mozart’s music as accompaniment.
I have commented in the past that actors must know when to remain still for greater impact and they could take lessons from Melinda Lopez who does just that as the statue. Her voice lacks the resonance that one would expect from a goddess but, nevertheless, Ms. Lopez triumphs in Act Two by evoking not only something noble and pure and created out of love but by becoming the Demeter-earth itself, absorbing all pain and suffering yet moving on --- the statue could also symbolize a writer’s nature: detached and observing, ever outside the loop --- in Ms. Lopez’s (hidden) hands, PERSEPHONE’s second half approaches the tragicomedy of Mr. Beckett’s Winnie, disappearing into the ground. Seth Fisher, Mimi Lieber and the ever-wonderful Jeremiah Kissel have been directed to be all twitchy and hyper --- no doubt, to read “human” and “every day” in contrast to the statue’s timelessness. David Korins has designed a lovely, rustic Florence interior and a bland, abstract Central Park, and kudos to whomever is up in the flies simulating the statue’s pigeons with well-aimed accuracy.