Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Ethan Frome"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


by Edith Wharton
adapted and directed by Dennis Krausnick

Homer Winterson & Co. … Steve Boss
Ethan Frome … Kevin G. Coleman
Zenobia Frome … Mary Guzzy
Mattie Silver … Elizabeth Aspenlieder

Shakespeare & Company is currently reprising their production of ETHAN FROME, played out in the very area where Edith Wharton lived and in which her novella is set --- pity they couldn’t wait until winter for the final touch but this stark tale of a doomed love triangle would not be your standard holiday fare (teenagers tend to resist it the novella; those who are older, wiser and bruised by love/life find it beautiful --- and it is). Dennis Krausnick’s adaptation smoothly skims the surface; the novella’s narrator plays all of the minor roles and the near-fatal sledding takes place in a flurry of strobe lights. Aside from Mary Guzzy, whose cold, forbidding Zenobia punches this staged reading into a living, breathing play, the granite face of Tragedy stays well below the surface yet I prefer Mr. Krausnick’s low-cal version to the famous Owen Davis adaptation of the 1930s which now comes off as heavy, slow and near-indigestible. Kevin G. Coleman is properly lean and taciturn as Ethan (t'aint much to do with this passive sufferer); there is nothing fragile about Elizabeth Aspenlieder’s Mattie --- here’s a lass meant to do farm work --- the cheery Ms. Aspenlieder plays her as a good-natured klutz, instead. At the performance I attended, members of the audience giggled here and there ­ why? Because of the old-fashioned sentiment? Because Zenobia the Pill is such a meanie? My own mirth came at the finale when the two women squabbled like old tabbies before the fire: in my mind-theatre, Ethan would solemnly say to his guest, “Excuse me…” and bang their heads together for silence.

Kris Stone has designed a lovely winter backdrop of proud, bare trees and Nathan Towne-Smith has lit it in frosty pinks and blues, making this a true Winter’s Tale --- but with three broken statues in the end.

"Ethan Frome" (5 September-26 October)
Founders’ Theatre, LENOX, MA
1 (413) 637-3353

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide