Theatre Mirror Reviews - "La Vita Claire"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"La Vita Claire"

by Bill Lattanzi
Directed by Jon Blackstone

Set Design by Kristie Thompson
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Sound Design by Ben Arons
Costume Design by Kristin Loeffler
Stage Combat by Georgia Lyman
Projection Guru Dean O'Donnell
Photography by Rebecca Morrison
Photo Shop Brendan Hughes
Stage Manager Meg Boone
Assistant Stage Managers Brenda Morris, Andrea Gonzalez

Jerry The Priest/Dante di Maiano/Thug/E-rena.....George Saulnier III
Cino/Giulietta/Cosmo....................................................Wendy Frank
Kat/Jenny/Beatrice.....................................................Georgia Lyman
James/Lafcadio........................................................Barlow Adamson
Robert/Cavalcanti.....................................................Michael Cappelli
Tana/Love.....................................................................Marie Larkin
David...............................................................................Jay Carroll
Dante............................................................................John Sarrouf
Claire......................................................................Sarah Newhouse


It's still a little early, but Bill Lattanzi's "La Vita Claire" is probably the best new play of this year. His play stretches the stage with slide- and shadow-projections, lightning leaps through time and space, characters centuries apart played by the same actor, layers of overlapping plots and meanings, swift shifts from satire to serious --- and all of its glittering cinematic surface effects and temporal cross-fades remain a vibrantly human, unfilmable piece of brilliant theater. He has been blessed with a vibrantly fearless cast, an excellent director, a magical technical staff, and with the taste, insight, imagination and faith in the excellence of new theater that have always characterized the CentaStage Performance Group here in Boston. Keep your eyes and ears wide open every inch of the way. This is an experience.

Start with a dynamically imaginative performance-artist --- Sarah Newhouse as the Claire of the title --- restlessly in love with an eager-eyed photographer (Michael Cappelli), their lives and dreams and creativity clotted with the ebullient, inventive banter of emerging youth. Toss in the ghost of Claire's grandmom (Marie Larkin) and her fixation on the True Love at First Sight of Dante for a Beatrice he never even spoke to --- a ripe subject for her next performance-art piece, right? Intertwine the image of Beatrice with that of a too-young fashion-model using/being used by that shutterbug, and use the body of Georgia Lyman in both roles . Shake the Kaleidoscope again and let Barlow Adamson play both Grandmom's first love, and a Romeo-figure defying a gang-feud, with Georgia Lyman again as both objects of his affections. Keeping all that straight is the easy part.

Now fold in John Sarrouf as Dante seen from half a dozen cubist directions --- the historical facts, the romanticized ideal in a famous painting, a creative resource ripe for exploitation, a contemporary man wrestling with 14th century ideas in '90s language, the prisoner of his own ideals, the obsessed poet writing down (in English) the dictated Italian of his beloved muse, a Florentine jogger running into his contemporary poets or falling under the scarlet-masked spell of a personification of love. He is always in the renaissance robe and funny hat out of that famous painting, whichever century he inhabits.

To flesh out the scenes, Wendy Frank plays several Renaissance ladies (including the one Dante merely slept with) and George Saulier III plays several men (including a Jerry The Priest painfully suppressing awareness of the flesh). All of this sounds bewildering in the telling, and it spills out of the mixmaster-mind of that performance-artist preparing her Dante piece for Mobius. In the playing all this is just as unclear, but compellingly inventive and peppered with all the glib with-it street-speech of eager artists on the make. The entire cast throw themselves totally into their multiple roles, and the timing of a pause can change the temperature of a line from bombastic to heartrending.

Because, you see, despite their fantasies and artsy fabrications, Claire and her photographer, the girl he launches as a model, and the Black stocks-manipulator (Jay Carroll) Claire meets at her day-job tending bar --- these are all very real, very vulnerable contemporary human beings for whom the fickleness of True Love causes real joys, but real pain too. And since this is not a celluloid strip, what these actors feel, the audience feels as well. And that's why this is, already, the best fucking play I have seen all year. Don't wait for the New York run; see it now.

Love,
===Anon.


"La Vita Claire" (till 22 May)
CENTASTAGE
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)536-5981 Check their website

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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