Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Enigma Variations"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Larry Stark

"Enigma Variations"

by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Translated by Jeremy Sams
Directed by David Zoffoli

Set Design by Jenna McFarland Lord
Lighting Design by Russ Swift
Costume Design by Linda Sarver
Sponsored by Paula Mae & Steve Schwartz
Production Stage Manager Melissa Daroff

Abel Znorko..............Tom Marcus
Erik Larsen.............David Volin

Theater is the one art in which performers, in the same room and breathing the same air as their audience, behave realistically, and this illusion allows them also to twist and to play games with the "reality" they have constructed. In "Enigma Variations" Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt takes full advantage of both possibilities while two men argue about the nature of true love, using as example a woman both loved in continually surprising ways. Their arguement gets more fascinating as the nature of this talked-about woman shifts in terms no reviewer could reveal without ruining all the surprises which are the really important matter of the play.

The form here is that of an interview with an eccentric old novelist (Tom Markus) by a journalist (David Volin) who knows his subject better than the man suspects. But early on in this engrossing play the interviewer begins by telling his subject all about the contents of the novelist's own last book. This lump of undigested exposition may set experienced playgoers' teeth on edge, but once past it the writing (trust me) improves moment by moment to the last two shots of off-stage rifle fire. (See, I can be enigmatic too!)

That last book is an autobiographical exercize by this Nobel winner --- an exchange of erotic letters masqueraded as an episolary novel. The novelist insists that after living for two years in perfect bliss with a woman, familiarity bred ennui, and he sent her away while maintaining their love through weekly letters for the next twelve years. And That is what these two well-matched actors argue about, now one triumphing, now the other --- with the journalist's revelations of another truth again and again twisting their pasts into ever more fascinating shapes.

The actors are perfectly matched, Director David Zoffoli moves them effectively around a modern living-room imaginatively designed by Jenna McFarland Lord under Russ Swift's lights. It's real, and not-real, by turns, and a fascinating ride.

"Enigma Variations" (26 June - 13 July)
267 East Main Street, GLOUCESTER MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide