Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Four Baboons Admiring The Sun"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"Four Baboons Admiring The Sun"

by John Guare
Directed by Jason Southerland

Set Design by Laura McPherson and Brent Wachter
Lighting Design by Mara N. Fishman
Sound Design and Composition by Jack Aaronson
Baboon Mask by Robert McPherson
Rock Sculptures by Joe Wheelwright
Production Stage Manager Jeffrey Clark

Eros..................William Gardiner
Philip...........................Bill Mavis
Penny................Nancy E. Carroll
Wayne..................Justin Ordman
Halcy......................Kim Sedlock
Sarah...................Rachel Hodges
Cleo..................Lindsay Ordman
Teddy....................Jillian Lenson
Jane...................Janelle Dempsey
Peter.......Matthew Bretschneider
Roger................Max Rosenglass
Robin..............Eliza Rose Fichter


Where do you start? This is a new play, by a new company, in a more or less new theater-space, with nine children and the god of erotic love in the cast --- any one of them the valid subject for a lead-paragraph. But probably the most important fact here is that this is a fine, thought-provoking, thoroughly theatrical play imaginatively brought to life by a creative and administrative crew whose attention to detail in every aspect is quite simply delightful.

John Guare's play leaps about on an abstract set, inside and outside people's minds, making the broad orange incline onstage into an airport, an archaeological dig-site, a family van touring Sicily, a mountainside temple --- all with a quick word or two and a rearrangement of bodies and attitudes. It takes full advantage of theater's freedom to become what it says it is, as opposed to the slavery to total reality which rules cinema. Tucked away in nooks either side of the ramp are sculptures by Joe Wheeler --- heads and faces emerging from rocks --- that echo the archaeological and the mythical details in the script. The presence of the past --- the ancient past, the personal past in anyone's life --- is the essential metaphor of the play, and it is reflected in many, even many nearly subliminal touches.

Bill Mavis and Nancy E. Carroll play two newly-divorced, newly-married young lovers (at 40-something) trying to integrate the progeny of their old marriages into a new family, as well as hoping to fire in these petulent kids an enthusiasm for scraping beads and potsherds out of the earth and using them to make up a plausible story about their origins. Seven of the kids function as a chorus, now expressing individualities, now uniting behind acceptance or rejection of parental hopes or disciplines.

Kim Sedlock and Justin Ordman play the eldest children of the two old families who, at thirteen, are drawn to replicate their parents' new love for one another, though their youthful inexperience makes their passions dangerously tragic.

And William Gardiner plays Eros, a bald, bearded, barefoot butterball in the white coveralls of a divine workman. "I never coerce. I offer choices" is his lovingly, chillingly dispassionate commentary on people's passions. He can freeze the action to lecture, to comment, to narrate, but hovers as an invisible presence throughout. His switches from serious to satiric can come almost in a single sentence.

Director Jason Southerland handles the swarms of kids, the mercurial complexities of the play, the flow of emotion and idea, with a continual unfolding of new aspects and depths. The audience is always a bit off-balance yet fascinated.

All in all, an auspicious beginning for an exciting new theatrical company.

Love,
===Anon.


"Four Baboons Admiring The Sun" (till 15 November)
BOSTON THEATRE WORKS
Tremont Theatre, 276 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)824-8000

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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