Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Language of Kisses"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


"THE LANGUAGE OF KISSES"

by Edmund De Santis
directed by Lilia Levitina

Zan … Maria Monakhova
Blue … Shawn LaCount
Mara … Julie McNiven

Edmund De Stantis’ THE LANGUAGE OF KISSES, receiving its world premiere through the Basement on the Hill, is a triangle of sorts between a middle-aged writer, her live-in lover (a semi-retarded younger man) and her estranged daughter who has come home to re-claim her old room, if not her mother’s affection (the lover and daughter may even exist only in the writer’s imagination). There is non-stop action throughout --- much darting in and out of curtains to suggest agony or ecstasy; a near-orgasm on a swing while quoting Thomas Wolfe; jam being smeared on one of two shapely, bared breasts (blueberry jam, I believe); a hostile mother-daughter tango; several kinds of smash-ups that bring the evening to a close; etc. --- yet, instead of a line, the play is a circle and soon runs rings around the audience’s patience. And without intermission.

If being a good actor means being unafraid to make a fool of oneself onstage, then Maria Monakhova, Shawn LaCount and Julie McNiven are very good actors, indeed: through sheer willpower, all three manage to shake a second dimension out of their paper-thin characters, especially Ms. Monakhova, a handsome tragedienne who uses her low voice, wide eyes and heart-shaped face to give lessons in the lost art of Suffering (one reason why we have no tragedies today is that the American public wants victors, not victims). Mr. LaCount and Ms. McNiven, being American, play from the gut. Ms. Monakhova, Russian-born and Russian-trained, plays directly from the heart --- if she does goes over the top, her audience never titters. Bernhardt must have been like this….

"The Language of Kisses" (4 - 21 September)
BASEMENT ON THE HILL STAGE
Boston Center for the Arts ­ Leland Theatre, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 426-2787

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"Romantique"**** till 1-17 August Reviewed by Carl A. Rossi

"Romantique"

Reviewed by Carl A. Rossi

Yes, ROMANTIQUE was a dull clockwatcher but it wasn’t terrible --- should Mr. Felder keep the music and swap his trite dialogue for voice-over, the result would be no worse than an A&E Biography where homogenized surface is all. Suffice it to say that Mr. Felder wrote another vehicle for himself: the paying public came to hear him play Chopin which he did superbly and they went home happy as did audiences who attended the silly biopic A SONG TO REMEMBER, several generations ago.

"Romantique" (1-17 August)
AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER
Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 547-8300 Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Romantique"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


"ROMANTIQUE"

by Hershey Felder
directed by Andrew J. Robinson and Joel Zwick

George Sand … Stephanie Zimbalist
Eugène Delacroix … Anthony Crivello
Frédéric Chopin … Hershey Felder

I attended the final performance of the A.R.T. production of ROMANTIQUE which took a beating from the press --- those who applauded Hershey Felder for his one-man Gershwin show were less than enchanted with his three-character “imagination with music” about Chopin, George Sand, his benefactor and beloved, and their mutual acquaintance Eugene Delacroix. Yes, ROMANTIQUE was a dull clockwatcher but it wasn’t terrible --- should Mr. Felder keep the music and swap his trite dialogue for voice-over, the result would be no worse than an A&E Biography where homogenized surface is all: here, Chopin was a fragile, talented pill brimming with hit tunes; George Sand, the nice Lady in Pants who loves him but doesn’t understand him; Delacroix, an Artist’s Best Friend. Suffice it to say that Mr. Felder wrote another vehicle for himself: the paying public came to hear him play Chopin which he did superbly and they went home happy as did audiences who attended the silly biopic A SONG TO REMEMBER, several generations ago.

Yes, Mr. Felder played superbly --- the Polonaise in A Major threatened to turn the evening into a costume concert --- as Chopin himself, he was lumpy and sullen, the type of invalid who would linger for years; I missed his Gershwin impersonation where I hope he was far more appealing (his resemblance to Lizst makes me wonder where his next “imagination” will lead him to --- SONG WITHOUT END, anyone?). Being a trained pianist, actually playing on stage, Mr. Felder was, of course, convincing as a musician; Stephanie Zimbalist (Sand) and Anthony Crivello (Delacroix) had to fall back on stock gestures to indicate that she was a novelist and he, a painter (pity that Mr. Felder didn’t probe into their respective egos and demons; the pair passed many a minute playing statues while his Chopin played). Ms. Zimbalist was a neutral Sand, filling the vast stage with empty gestures and declamation; Mr. Crivello, who has some Presence, made a handsome, virile Delacroix with little to do. Yael Pardess designed an equally handsome set --- three frames within frames draped in red curtains yet skewered to remind the audience they were at the A.R.T., not the Huntington.

Imbedded in ROMANTIQUE was one truly Romantic image: while Chopin performed the Etude in E Major, Sand rested her head on his shoulder and her right hand on his to feel the music through his fingers. Here was a love story, doomed to end --- the music that has brought Chopin and Sand together will also drive them apart; had ROMANTIQUE offered more of those images I’d have gone home as happy as the rest of the audience.

"Romantique" (1-17 August)
AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER
Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (617) 547-8300

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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