Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Seductions"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


A classic trio of one-acts

Stage and Lighting Design by Jeff Gardiner
Costume Design by Liza Hope
Sound Design by Kent Larson
Stage Manager Christine Robinson

"The Lover"

by Harold Pinter
Directed by Fran Weinberg

The Milkman.....................Juan Luis Acevedo
Richard/Max.......................Barlow Adamson
Sarah.........................................Marie Larkin

"27 Wagons Full of Cotton"

by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Fran Weinberg

Silva.................................Juan Luis Acevedo
Flora.................................Dorothy Brodesser
Jake............................................Frank Ridley

"The Marriage Proposal"

by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Aidan Parkinson

Lomov................................Barlow Adamson
Chubukov.........................Dorothy Brodesser
Natalia.......................................Marie Larkin

Nothing proves the vigor and vitality of theater here better than this spectacular evening of exercizes in style. Here the creme of a growing pool of actors who choose to work and grow in Boston sink their teeth into three landmark plays by undisputed masters of the one-act form and bring them startlingly, freshly to life again. The cast of five keep coming back onstage not only in new costumes but in wholly new personae in radically different acting styles. Each play is uniquely true to itself, and you'd swear that there had to be nine different actors to make these polished gems shine so flawlessly.

First comes a clip't early Pinter play contrasting the blasť English formality of a cool modern open-marriage with the torridly inventive role-playing of the wife's afternoon flings. The affair has gone on for a year, but it's about to change --- and the delightful surprise is that the calmly bored hubby and the quicksilver lover are both the same Barlow Adamson. Marie Larkin switches from her tasteful housedress to a slut-red mini for her marital/extramarital games, yet throughout their rather odd Pinteresque day the crisp modern style maintains throughout.

Then, after a choreographed set-change transforming Jeff Gardiner's immaculately crisp English living-room into a flyblown Southern backwater front porch it's suddenly Tennessee Williams country, and the humidity and the temperature change considerably. Dorothy Brodesser is the plump, big-boned, small-brained wife of Frank Ridley's double-dealing owner of a failing cotton-gin. The smell of Erskine Caldwell sexiness hangs on the sun-sodden air here, as the rival forced to give him business takes revenge in, shall we say, a pound or so of flesh. Juan Luis Acevedo (who popped briefly into the Pinter play as a milkman) and Brodesser give every word and nuance and inch of Williams' tensely understated encounter unflinching honesty. The style is Southern gothic, given a fearless intensity it is painful to watch.

Then the scene kaleidoscopes back inside again, and a change of Liza Hope's flawlessly accurate costumes bring on a trio of Anton Chekhov's boisterously brawling land-owners --- this time done as slapstick over-the-top farce. Marie Larkin is back, so intent on winning arguments with him that Barlow Adamson keeps forgetting he came to propose. (Dorothy Brodesser is back here as well, but no one but a spoilsport will tell you as what!) The style here is sheer physicality, yet every extreme gesture is precisely timed, every leap and snarl has the look of a believable emotion shoved to the limit of its external extreme.

Fran Weinberg directed the first two of these gems, and Aidan Parkinson the last. In each case, given the exquisite timing and ensemble feel, it was more a case of shaping the performances into a smoothly meshed whole rather than goading the cast to invent. Each of these plays could be satisfying in itself, and the time literally flies by in this thoroughly satisfying night of theater.

Fran Weinberg, who often directs plays, and Dorothy Brodesser who acts, also work as acting coaches and teachers. They are doing their best to widen and to deepen the pool of excellent acting talent that stays in this city hungering for any empty space in which to give their work to audiences. And, every once in a while, they teach an audience as well, not by precept, but by shining example. Because of people like these, good theater is alive and well and living in --- and around --- Boston, Massachusetts.


Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 14:01:26 EST
From: Dearest Larry,
Humbled by this exceptional experience, by my good fortune, by your insight and kindness, first thank you for really seeing Seductions. We plump character actresses are rarely afforded the opportunity to play not one, but two plum roles in the same evening! For that serendipity to enfold within it an ensemble of actors, directors, designers and crew such as these outstanding colleagues is, simply stated, a gift of grace.

Please note, however, that this evening of theater is the brainchild of one Aiden Parkinson, Artistic Director of The Poet's Theatre, and director of The Marriage Proposal. It was he, producer Dominick Jones, and the Board of Directors of The Poet's Theatre who selected these plays and brought this production to the stage. Fran Weinberg's reputation for excellence caught the attention of Parkinson and crew, and earned her the opportunity to direct both the Pinter and the Williams. I was just plain lucky to be in the right place at the right time to work again with Fran et al, on a piece which will forever be the most cherished of my stage experiences. And you're right -- it is extraordinarily satisfying to be a moving part of this too unsung community of theater professionals.
Much love,
(Dorothy Brodesser)

SEDUCTIONS (till 21 November)
"The Lover"
"Twenty Seven Wagons Full of Cotton"
"The Marriage Proposal"
The Works Theatre, 255 Elm Street, Davis Square, SOMERVILLE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide