Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Swan"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"The Swan"

by Elizabeth Egloff
Directed by Scott Edmiston

Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley
Properties Designed by Jayne Murphy
Sound Design and Original Music by J. Hagenbuckle
Production Stage Manager Valerie Hilton

Dora.................Natalie Brown
The Swan.....Barlow Adamson
Kevin...................Scott Kealey

Birds don't have hands. When Barlow Adamson plays a Swan inexplicably transformed into a naked man, it's his neck, and his long bare feet, and his habit of stepping effortlessly up onto furniture to perch in suspicious silence, that proves him other than human. Elizabeth Egloff's intense hour and a half one-act accepts that transformation, leaving the much-married nurse whose picture-window the Swan smashed, and the milk-man who wishes she were his wife not his mistress, to deal with this outre intrusion into their overly comfortable lives. Obviously, The Nora Theatre Company has found themselves an intriguing new play.

Natalie Brown's Dora is pleasantly accepting of her avian house-guest. Scott Kealey's Kevin is obviously disturbed. The Swan/man pushes them to questions and to crisis, as bits of background and reflection crop up in their arguments. As the visitor learns to wear clothes and to talk --- at least to Dora --- there are ripples of fantasy in what might, perhaps, be an unhappy woman's dream.

What keeps the play from collapsing into the implausible is the intensity of everyone's playing. Director Scott Edmiston has paid close attention to tiny human touches that provide humor, scattered through what is a very forceful confrontation of believable people with themselves. Janie E. Howland's untidy apartment, the accuracy of Jayne Murphy's properties, the snatches of old movies Dora watches on the tube, all anchor this maybe-dream, maybe-nightmare to ordinariness, so the situation and the characters can become achingly unique.

And Stage Manager Valerie Hilton sees to it that total-darkness scene changes keep alive the possibility that these very real events might take place in someone's mind rather than someone's apartment. Despite difficult technical effects, Egloff's story is not a movie pretending to be a play --- the physical presence of these three vibrant human beings wrestling with their personal demons and with one another is, always, compellingly believable.

And somehow, after this "Sylvia" will never look the same to me again!


"The Swan" (till 20 March)
Boston Playwrights' Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide