Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Nine"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Nine"

Book by Arthur Kopit
Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Stage Direction & Choreography by Russell R. Greene
Music Direction by Mario Cruz

Producer Donnie Baillargeon
Lighting Design by D Schweppe
Costume Design by Ann Carnaby
Set Design by Stephen McGonagle
Sound Design by Bill Triessl
Properties Design by Pam Mayne
Hair Style Design by Jean Williams
Makeup design by Jack Wickwire
Stage Manager John Chiachiaretta

Guido Contini..........................David Berti
Guido age nine.......................Ryan Garvin
Luisa Contini.........................Sheila Rehrig
Carla Albanese...Judi Ann Mavon Shattuck
Claudia Nardi....................Rebekah Turner
Guido's Mother..............Candace Hopkins
Liliane La Fleur....................Ceit McCaleb
Lina Darling.......................Phyllis Walters
Stephanie Necrophorus....Jennifer Shotkin
Our Lady of The Spa....Diane Porter Tutin
Mama Maddelena................Peri Chouteau
Sarraghina..........................Kristen Palson
The Italians
Giuletta..........................Jess Andra
Renata.......Lea Darrow Oppedisano
Francesca...Katherine Engel Meifert
Diana......................Yolanda LeRoi
Maria.....................Susan Tremblay
Annabella................ Deirdre Hatch
The Germans
Gretchen Von Krupf...................Kate Beattie
Ilsa Von Hesse.........................JoAnne Power
Heidi Von Sturm...Jaime Steinbach Huberman
Olga Von Sturm........................Dawn Tucker
The Musicians
Conductor.................................................................Mario Cruz
Keyboards..................................................................Mario Cruz
Violin.....................................................Peter Hughes/Katy Gillan
Cello....................................................................Jennifer Minnich
Bass...............................................................................Ed Krauss
Woodwinds...Karen Dickson/Louis Toth/Ray Taranto/Dave Daquil
Trumpet..................................................................Steve Banzaert
Percussion..................................................................Kevin Burke

In the lobby during its second performance, a smiling patron called the Vokes Players' production of "Nine" "...a Broadway quality production". Already, they had to add another week-end of three extra performances, which sold out before the closing curtain fell --- making it the hottest ticket in Wayland, Mass. And no wonder: The play takes place entirely within the mind of Guido Contini, a passionate Italian film director in the habit of writing and directing films by mining his own life and imagination for material. And aside from a boy playing himself as a nine-year-old, this director attempts to orchestrate a cast consisting of twenty of the most beautiful women ever seen on the Vokes Playhouse stage, each a unique, fascinating individual. The result is a hit, a palpable hit.

The performance of David Berti as this mercurial, frustrated, kaleidoscopic figure (who never leaves the stage) is, to put it simply, sublime. Women from his present and his past appear as he thinks of them, and his mind skips in and out of fantasy and memory while he fumes at his inability to fulfill a new contract for a new film --- preferably a musical!

The women circling about him like moths around a flame all embody variations on love --- from his sainted mother (Candace Hopkins) to the film-critic from hell (Jennifer Shotkin). And each one, as they take center-stage, seem for that time to be the star of the show. Guido's French producer (Ceit McCaleb), insisting he do a musical, finds it necessary to demonstrate Les Folies Bergeres with herself as the star. The actual star of Guido's first three (and only successful) films gently but firmly insists she is no longer the same woman and cannot play the same character again. And then there is the current mistress. Playing her, Judi Ann Mavon Shattuck is a vesuvius of sexual pyrotechnics in a lacy body-stocking more expressive than mere nudity. And the first act ends with Kristen Palson stripping away her nun's habit to reveal Sarraghina, little Guido's ninth-year first experience of sexuality. Each one is an inspiration, and a distraction, and each is a triumphant star turn.

Throughout, though, it is Sheila Rehrig as his understanding but not forgiving wife who keeps returning, overlooking peccadilloes but insisting on some respect, supportive even when exasperated.

The whole show takes place inside Stephen McGonagle's circular set which looks like an old Venetian nunnery turned into a modern spa, with a back-wall dissolving to show St. Mark's Church in the distance. (If you care to think of it as the inside of Guido's skull, that's okay too.) On this set the twenty ladies assemble, parade, argue, and even act scenes from Guido's musical version of the life of Casanova, all of it in deliciously inventive costumes designed by Ann Carnaby. And somewhere behind it all is Music Director Mario Cruz with nine gifted musicians accompanying this exceptionally expressive score.

Russell R. Greene who choreographed and directed this gem is famous for insisting all he does is find the perfect cast and turn them loose. It certainly looks that way here, with everyone centered in character and rock-solid in fluid concentration. The shape of the evening, the quicksilver shifts from sincerity to bombast, the quietly tender moments following scenes of passionate sexiness, and the continual focus on this flamboyant artist's state of mind --- none of that "just happens" when a gifted cast of twenty-two people decide to make a play. Since --- from the first wordless symphony Guido conducts to the final reprise reuniting hi tempestuous universe --- that cast looks as though they were making it all up as they went along, "Nine" must have been brilliantly directed.

What a pity there are no more tickets to be had!

Love,
===Anon.


"Nine" (25 October - 17 November)
VOKES PLAYERS
Vokes Theater, Route 20, WAYLAND, MA
1 (508) 358-4034


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