note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Napoleon Ö Kermit Dunkelberg
Joan of Arc Ö Jenn Pina
Sir Hudson Lowe Ö MichaŽl Harrington
Dr. OíMeara Ö Christopher Crowley
Josephine Ö Belle Linda Halpern
Montholon Ö Dev Luthra
Simon Ö ZoŽ Mancuso Dunkelberg
Rat; Soldier; Albine Ö Allison Linker
Rat; Soldier Ö Benjamin Lu
Rat; Soldier Ö Adam Miller
Laura Harringtonís absurdist comedy N (BONAPARTE) is receiving its world premiere at the Boston Center for the Arts: the year is 1815 and the Emperor Napoleon, defeated at Waterloo, is exiled to St. Helena in the South Atlantic where he rants against his captors, befriends the islandís rats, philophizes in his bathtub, debates the ghost of Joan of Arc, seduces a servantís wife, fantasizes about his beloved Josephine and finally dies to be resurrected as a still-potent icon. Ms. Harrington fleshes out these bare bones with bravura mono- and dialogues, some of them brilliant, some of them written by the yard; the results are not unlike a baroque opera being declaimed rather than sung. Director Kim Mancuso keeps everything spinning in motion (though some depth to the characterizations would have been nice) and there are memorable images to offset all those words: Joan of Arc falling out of the skies; Josephine, in flashback, appearing on a swing; Napoleon bringing Act One to a close with a wistful solo-waltz; the silent, serene apotheosis, beautifully lit by Joshua Randall and blanketed in dry ice-smoke.
Kermit Dunkelberg blusters impressively in the title role though I must confess that memories of Robin Williamsí Mork kept getting in my way (the evening begins with the Emperorís testicles being displayed in a jar reminiscent of Suzan Lori-Parksí VENUS --- they are the size of tennis balls yet Mr. Dunkelberg struts about without bulge or hindrance). Mr. Dunkelberg is effortlessly challenged by MichaŽl Hammond as Sir Hudson Lowe, the Emperorís nemesis, uttering the softest, downiest of commands and Allison Linker, Benjamin Lu and Adam Miller are a twitchy, perky trio of chorus-rats, played without cuteness, whiskers and tails. Best of all is Belle Linda Halpernís handsome, sensual Josephine who made me think of a rich, hearty meat sauce ladled over pasta and served with a smoky red wine --- Ms. Halpernís logical next step would be the earthy lead in THE ROSE TATOO by T (Williams).